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Manteca owners warm-up vehicles to help car thieves

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POSTED February 6, 2013 1:01 a.m.

Warming up a vehicle in the morning has been responsible for nearly half of all vehicle thefts in Manteca this winter.

Manteca Police Officer Stephen Schluer, assigned to the DELTARAT auto theft task force coordinated through the CHP,  said that 28 vehicles had been stolen so far in 2013 in Manteca through January 27.   The total reported was actually 34, but the other six included one motorized golf cart, a motorized shopping cart, two trailers and a boat. 

“Active crews of car thieves are driving through neighborhoods every morning to find cars being warmed up that they can take,” Schluer said.  “In one surveillance video car thieves are seen driving repeatedly through neighborhoods looking for cars they can steal in the blink of an eye.”

The officer said another problem is caused by motorists leaving their keys in their vehicles with them later being burglarized and the thieves using those keys to steal the vehicle.

More than a dozen cars and trucks were stolen that had been left idling in the driveways of residences throughout the community while the commuters were inside their homes.

“It has become a common occurrence in the winter months when motorists want to defrost their windows or warm up their cars,” Schluer said.  In the 2012, for the same period,   there were 29 vehicle thefts with only two of those vehicles having been warmed up along with one carjacking.

In November of last year Manteca had a total of 39 vehicles stolen and six of those were carjackings, Schluer said.  There were 39 vehicles stolen in December, reflecting 11 of those being warmed up by their owners – 34 percent were taken while the engines were running.

The month of December showed a decrease in vehicle thefts of some six percent compared to the previous year.

A total of 384 vehicles were reported stolen for all of 2012 – up some 42 percent from the previous calendar year, while crime from the most serious Part One offenses is down.

The rate of warm-up thefts is staggering. Even in 2004 - when a record 798 vehicles were stolen in Manteca - just less than one in four were because owners were either warming up their vehicle or left the keys in the ignition.

Schluer stressed that the DELTARAT auto theft task force and the Manteca Police Department are doing everything they can to bring a halt to the continuing rash of auto thefts.

The officer told of counseling a man one morning in November as to why he shouldn’t have his engine running in his driveway, giving him an information packet explaining why it was a bad idea.

“Four week later, early in December,  the man’s pickup truck was stolen while it was being warmed up,” Schluer said.  “He didn’t listen.”

Stolen vehicle have an 85 percent recovery rate, but some of them are only a burned out shell with others being returned to the owners as a whole car.

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