Berkeley police report a 96 percent recovery rate for cars stolen in Berkeley.
In 2006, 1,266 cars were reported stolen, while in 2007 1,154 were reported stolen. In August 2008, 29 cars have been reported stolen and 11 have been recovered.
“We have a very high recovery rate,” Sgt. Mary Kusmiss, BPD community services bureau supervisor said. “Southern California has more vehicles stolen and chopped up or taken over the border. Here, cars are stolen for gas, joyrides, drug deals or to pick up a prostitute. It’s just a different culture of theft.”
Stolen cars in Berkeley are most often recovered when they’ve been abandoned in a residential area or along the freeway. Often the cars are recovered when a resident, business owner or police officer notices a car parked strangely or for a long period of time, or a car that has a large number of citations.
The license number and description of all stolen cars are entered in the national Stolen Vehicle Service database of the National Crime Information Center. When police find a car they suspect has been stolen, they can search the database to confirm. Stolen cars are occasionally recovered when an officer stops the driver for another reason. When the officer reads the license number to the dispatcher, he or she will recognize that car as stolen.
According to Sgt. Kusmiss, the most frequently stolen makes of cars include Toyota, Honda, Saturn, and Acura. These brands often have similar keys, which are easily filed down to fit into any car’s ignition, making them the easiest to steal.
Police say the simplest and most effective theft prevention measure is a steering wheel locking device. The Berkeley Police Department Community Services Bureau has several hundred of these devices available, so a community member who calls the bureau can receive one for free, Sgt. Kusmiss said.