Auto Theft On The Decline In Grand Rapids

Posted at 1:25 PM, Feb 19, 2013
and last updated 2013-02-19 19:45:12-05

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich.– Grand Rapids Police say they’ve seen a tremendous decrease in vehicle thefts over the past decade. But, with those thefts, detectives in Michigan are still seeing specific vehicle makes and colors are being targeted.

While the number of car thefts has gone down, police say it’s cold, snowy winter days where the thefts are likely to happen even more.

The latest numbers released by the Michigan Automobile Theft Prevention Authority show auto thefts have dropped nearly 7%.

Putting it into perspective in our West Michigan, is Sergeant Stanley Lis, with the Grand Rapids Police Department. He’s been working their Combined Auto Theft Unit the past 16 years.

“In the 1990s, late 1980s, the city of Grand Rapids would have 1,500 cars stolen a year,” said Sgt. Lis. We’re down to less than 400. It’s a tremendous decrease.”

A big part in that decrease, aside from a talented detective team, is technology. Car makers have done away with punch columns and beefed up security with better keys and On Star. But, a big problem Sergeant Lis sees every year, happens more in Winter.

“Running cars,” said Sgt. Lis. “People leave their cars running while warming up. Cold mornings like today, I wouldn’t hesitate to expect well over 50% of our thefts tomorrow are going to be thefts from cars left running. The majority from the weekend reports were running. All but one were vehicles left running.”

Another popular time for stolen cars is Spring Break.

“We’ll traditionally see an increase in thefts as some of our stolen cars make their way down to Florida and never return.”

But, not everyone is a target. According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau, Michigan’s top five most stolen vehicles are:

1.) 2000 Dodge Caravan

2.) 2004 Chevrolet Impala

3.) 1997 Chevrolet Pickup

4.) 1997 Ford Taurus

5.) 2002 Dodge Intrepid

Police say there are specific colors thieves are after. Black, White, Red, Blue and Silver are the top five most stolen vehicle colors.

To keep from being a victim, Sergeant Lis urges folks to remember this:

Lock your car and take your keys, that would eliminate about 60 or 70 percent of the theft in Grand Rapids.”

Sergeant Lis and his team of five, which will soon be reduced to four due to budget cuts, has recovered more than a million dollars in stolen vehicles over the years. They’ve already recovered close to that in just the past six months due to some large theft cases, one of them involving school buses.