Washington Evening Journal
http://washington-ia.villagesoup.com/p/915480

Neighbors Growing Together | Oct 31, 2014

Police warn of car thefts

By Andy Hallman | Oct 25, 2012

A few vehicles have been stolen in the county in the past week. Washington Police Chief Greg Goodman said that vehicle thefts often go in spurts, and the area just happens to be going through such a spurt now.

The most recent incident of a car theft occurred Wednesday afternoon in Washington. A vehicle, which was unlocked and had the keys inside, was stolen from the 100 block of East Main Street. The vehicle was discovered later that afternoon in the 100 block of East Main Street. Nothing appeared to be damaged or missing, and the vehicle was turned over to the owner.

Just one day before that vehicle theft, another vehicle theft was reported in rural Washington. A skidloader and posthole digger were reported stolen Tuesday in the 1800 block of 170th Street.

Goodman said that most of the car thefts he’s investigated are committed by people who just want to get from one place to another. He said it’s pretty rare for someone to steal a car in order to make money off of it by selling it or selling parts from it.

“Usually, they’re stealing a car for transportation,” he said. “We don’t see a lot of stolen cars being sold.”

Goodman said the police are not involved in the skidloader theft investigation, so he did not know the specifics of that case, but mentioned that construction equipment is a popular thing to steal. He said the thieves may want to use the construction somewhere else.

Most of the stolen cars police deal with were stolen because they were left unlocked with the keys inside. Goodman said that it’s pretty uncommon for a thief to steal a running car from a person who left the car to go inside.

Goodman also said that hot-wiring cars is pretty rare in Washington and in other small towns, although police in big cities have a problem with it.

“The police in those cities look at the steering column of cars to make sure it’s intact, because [the thief] has to break the lock on the steering wheel,” he said. “They also look to see if the back window has been popped off.”

Goodman said one reason Washington’s police department does not see hot-wiring of vehicles is that thieves don’t have to do that, since so many cars are left unlocked.

Goodman said car thieves, and their stolen cars, have been found in the very city they are from. Other times, the thief abandons the car in the countryside. About a month ago, a stolen car was found in a quarry south of Washington.

Law enforcement officials around the country use the same computer program to track stolen cars. If a car is stolen in Washington, the local police log its license plate and car model into the stolen car database, which is available throughout the country. That means an officer in another state can learn that that particular car is stolen by running its license plate through the system.

Goodman said that a common way stolen cars are discovered is that they are parked in an unusual spot, and the locals report the suspicious car to the police.

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