Two officers from the Douglas Police Department recently returned from an event in Kansas City, Mo. where they attended the International Association of Auto Theft Investigators seminar.
The International Association of Auto Theft Investigators (IAATI) was formed in order to improve communication and coordination among the growing family of professional auto theft investigators.
They have over 3,000 members in 35 countries and include representatives of law enforcement agencies, as well as many others with a legitimate interest in auto theft investigation, prevention and education.
IAATI recognizes that law enforcement agencies cannot successfully function independently and that auto theft investigation requires the active participation of the private sector; therefore their membership also includes the insurance industry, automobile manufacturers, car rental companies and the National Insurance Crime Bureau.
“There were about 400-500 people from across the word there,” Sgt. Duarte said. “They all came together to try and prevent auto theft.”
Auto theft in Douglas is low but the recovered vehicles numbers are pretty steady, Sgt. Duarte said.
According to Duarte, there have been approximately 70 recovered vehicles in Douglas in the last year. Vehicles are no longer being stolen for just the value of the car; they are now being stolen for higher crimes.
“These stolen vehicles are being used for crimes such as drug running and smuggling illegal immigrants,” Duarte said. “Then there are fraud schemes and chop-shop rings.”
During the seminar Romero and Duarte were taken on tours of the GM Fairfax Assembly Plant, Ford Claycomo Plant, and the Harley Davidson KC Plant.
“There they showed us were the hidden vehicle identification numbers are located,” Duarte said. “A lot of these thieves do not know that they are even there, they think there are only the ones on the dash and door.”
Members of IAATI also explained how vehicles are being exported out of the country. According to IAATI statistics there is a high rise of heavy equipment theft in the United States.
“Vehicle theft affects us all, insurance companies have to raise their prices to cover what they lose,” Duarte said.
The top three vehicles stolen vehicles in Arizona are: 1994 Honda Accord, 2005 Chevrolet Pickup and 1995 Honda Civic.
The National Insurance Crime Bureau, NICB, gave the following suggestions to keep you vehicle safe from thieves.
“Remove your keys from the ignition, people tend to leave their cars on to run into a store quickly,” said Duarte.
Other ways to protect your vehicle are identification markers in or on vehicle such as window etching or micro dot marking.
GPS and wireless technologies allow for remote monitoring of vehicle, when the vehicle is moved the system will alert the owner and the vehicle can be tracked via a computer.
Arizona Auto Theft Authority, the grant that funded Romero and Duarte’s trip, has also awarded the Douglas Police Department with $2,800, to purchase a Four Post Hydraulic Lift.
The Hydraulic Lift will be used by the DPD to investigate and identify stolen vehicles.
“It has been ordered and it will come in great use, we’ll no longer have to get on our backs to look under a vehicle,” Duarte said.