Despite otherwise average-to-low crime rates this year, the Hollenbeck division, which includes Boyle Heights, Lincoln Heights, and El Sereno, is in the midst of an inexplicable car theft binge. Compared to this time last year (which had record low car theft rates), grand theft auto is up 43 percent.
Some weeks have been so bad they left police in the division wondering if every car they passed on the street had been stolen. Why the binge? No one really knows, but police in the area have cracked down, and the numbers seem to be dwindling.
Meanwhile, what's especially interesting is what detectives have found about why cars are stolen.
Most stolen vehicles turn up again, and usually pretty quickly. Some have been stripped of rims, or sound systems, or parts, but most are pretty much unscathed when they turn up. Which leads police to believe that stealing cars, for some people, is just a form of transportation.
Just in the past week, 16 cars that were stolen from Hollenbeck have turned up, 5 of them within the district. The remaining 11 were found in Temple City, East LA, Ontario, Huntington Park, Newton, and Northeast. Detective Debbie Guerrero said she's seen stolen cars from Hollenbeck turn up in San Bernardino, Sacramento, and even Mexico.
Detective Guerrero and Lt. Antonio Zamora provided a list to KPCC of things you can do to protect your car and/or make the jobs of police easier:
- Park in a driveway or well lit area, if you can. Many cars are stolen using shaved keys (especially Hondas and Toyotas), so a car thief is not likely to draw much attention.
- Get a club: there are a limited number available, free of charge, to Hollenbeck residents at the local police station.
- Get your door and/or ignition locks changed. This might be an expensive option, but worn down locks are much more vulnerable to shaved keys.
- Don't buy cars you see with signs in the window at the side of the road that seem to be too cheap to be true. They're probably stolen. If you're not sure, get down to the station and have police run the VIN.
- Be honest. Don't tell police your car was stolen if it's possible it's been repossessed or if your friend or family took it and you had a falling out. They might be able to help mediate the situation, but don't call it car theft.
- If you see someone breaking into a car, that's worthy of a 911 call, so make it.