Despite increase in Alameda County auto theft rates, Berkeley bucks trend

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A report released Jan. 28 shows declining automobile theft rates for Berkeley despite their general increase in Alameda County.

The report by the Alameda County Regional Auto Theft Task Force (ACRATT) shows increases in theft rates in almost all jurisdictions in 2012. Both UCPD and Berkeley Police Department, however, reported flat or falling levels of auto theft in 2012 as compared to those of the previous year.

Auto theft in Alameda County increased by 17 percent in 2012, according to ACRATT. Auto theft increased in 2011 by nearly 19 percent from the previous year, a sharp change from five years of steadily declining auto theft rates. In contrast, UCPD reported a decrease of 29 percent, and Berkeley Police Department showed a zero percent change in 2012.

Marc Hinch, a California Highway Patrol investigator detailed to ACRATT, theorized that the economic downturn may have been responsible for the uptick in auto thefts.

“Property crimes in general are kind of taking a back burner for many police agencies, thanks to budget cuts,” Hinch said. “Criminals are a bit emboldened. Depending on the area, there’s not a lot of resources to investigate, or manpower.”

Honda Accords and Civics from the 1990s remain the models most often reported stolen, Hinch said, owing to their popularity as well as the ease of breaking into the ignition system. Car thieves often use a “shave key,” a dummy key designed to start the car.

Hinch advised proper use of a steering-wheel lock to help prevent the theft of older cars.

“A lot of people put (steering-wheel locks) on but don’t lock them,” Hinch said. “A lot of times, we recover cars and find the lock thrown in the back seat. It’s not necessarily going to prevent a theft, but a lot of times it will move (thieves) on to the next one.”

Contact ACRATT’s 24/7 anonymous tip line at 510-516-2886 to report auto theft-related activity.

Contact Gautham Thomas at [email protected].

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