Spokane police have given away about a hundred steering wheel locks to drivers who own the most-stolen cars in a city notorious for auto theft.
The program has been “extremely successful,” police spokeswoman Monique Cotton said. The department will continue to hand out the rest of the 250 Club devices bought using a state grant.
Officers presented the anti-theft products to drivers who could prove they own the most-preyed-upon models at a series of “Coffee with a Cop” events last week. Cotton said the next opportunity to get a free Club device would be at the “National Night Out” with law enforcement events taking place Aug. 5.
Money for the devices came from a grant to Spokane by the state’s Washington Auto Theft Prevention Authority, Cotton said. The group gave more than $364,000 to combat the rate of car theft in Spokane, which ranked seventh in the nation in 2013, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau.
Roughly half that money was earmarked to increase police presence and pay for overtime patrols in problem areas, Cotton said. Money that could have been spent on an advertising campaign was instead used to purchase the devices, she said.
“We want to assist the public, too, so they can take preventive measures themselves,” Cotton said.
According to internal police statistics, reports of vehicle theft within city limits are down 13 percent this year. In 2013, 3,205 vehicles were reported stolen in Spokane and Spokane Valley, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau, which is a rate of about 599 car thefts for every 10,000 residents.
Spokane was the only city outside of California to make the top 10 list in car thefts in 2013. Seattle reported more than 18,000 car thefts, but its rate was slightly lower at 502 thefts per 10,000 residents.