August 11, 2010 in City

Local police say stolen cars often recovered in one piece

Toyotas, Hondas still top thieves’ wish lists
By The Spokesman-Review
Courtesy of Spokane County Sheriff's Office photo

These stolen cars were found on state park land west of Nine Mile Falls where several cars have been dumped in the past two years. Both vehicles were stripped of parts likely to be resold. Authorities say airbags and catalytic converters bring big cash.
(Full-size photo)

View the top stolen vehicles in Spokane and nationally.

While stolen cars serve different purposes for thieves, chances are the vehicle is a Honda or Toyota.

The list of the top 10 most-stolen cars in America and in Spokane County are pretty comparable.

Thieves choose cars and trucks that are easy to break into, Spokane authorities say. About 24 cars and trucks are stolen per week in Spokane County.

Vehicles that don’t fit that description – those with a little more bling and bulk – sometimes are stolen by loading them onto a flatbed truck. According to national data from the Highway Data Loss Institutes on the most frequent theft claims to insurance companies, that usually means a Cadillac Escalade or Ford F-250.

But for the most part, those who steal cars remain satisfied with early to mid-90s Honda Civics and Accords, which remain the No. 1 and 2 most commonly stolen cars, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau and the region’s auto theft task force, made up of the Washington State Patrol, Spokane County Sheriff’s Office and the Spokane Police Department.

The local and national lists begin to differ after that. Both include the Toyota Camry and Acura Integra, but they’re ranked differently. The national list also includes the Ford F-150, Nissan Sentra, Toyota Corolla, Dodge Ram, and Chevrolet and Toyota pickups. The Spokane area’s list has Jeep Cherokee, Nissan Pathfinder, Subaru Outback and Legacy, Toyota 4Runner and Honda Prelude.

“We’ve seen lots of four-wheel-drive cars stolen,” said Dan Blashill, a Spokane County Sheriff’s Office detective. “Early to mid-’80s pickups are easy to break into.”

He added, “Hondas remain the most common, but mid-’90s Saturns seem to be popular all the sudden.”

Ryan Shaw, a Spokane police crime analyst, said thieves primarily use stolen cars for transportation, “and our victims generally get them back in one piece.”

“It’s not uncommon to recover a car near where another one was reported stolen,” Blashill said.

But when thieves do take car parts, air bags and catalytic converters are the most common, Blashill said.

WSP, SPD and the Sheriff’s Office have been using a new device since late last year – the automatic license plate scanner – to help recover stolen vehicles. The scanner reads license plates as the patrol car drives by and indicates whether the car with that license plate number was reported stolen.

No statistics were immediately available, but those who use the new device say it helps.

Blashill said the scanner “can read plates going 60 mph each way.”

Spokane Police Officer Glenn Bartlett said, “I know I personally have recovered 43 stolen cars since the first of the year – 21 of those using the license plate reader.”

Most-stolen cars in 2009
1995 Honda Civic Honda Accord
1991 Honda AccordHonda Civic
1989 Toyota CamryAcura Integra
1997 Ford F-150Toyota Camry
1994 Chevrolet C/K 1500Jeep Cherokee
1994 Acura IntegraNissan Pathfinder
2004 Dodge Ram pickupSubaru Legacy
1994 Nissan SentraSubaru Outback
1998 Toyota pickupToyota 4Runner
2007 Toyota CorollaHonda Prelude

Sources: U.S. statistics – National Insurance Crime Bureau; Spokane statistics – Spokane Police and Spokane County Sheriff’s Office crime analysts.

* All cars are mid-80s to early 2000s.

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