For the first time since 2010 the Stockton Metro Area — encompassing Stockton and Lodi — did not make the Top 10 on the National Insurance Crime Bureau’s worst cities for vehicle.
Modesto meanwhile came in at No. 4.
Why that matters to Manteca — and to a lesser degree Ripon — is the fact the two communities are sandwiched between Modesto and Stockton. Since 2003 Modesto and Stockton have been consistently in the top 10 nationally with Modesto making the No. 1 spot six times and Stockton getting as high as No. 2.
Manteca had 340 vehicle thefts in 2016 or 4.5 per 1,000 residents
Stockton Metro dropped to No. 12 nationwide in the 2016 stats with 4,075 auto thefts or 6.07 per 1,000 residents. Modesto in 2016 had 3,820 vehicle thefts or 7.67 per 1,000 residents
Manteca Police Chief Jodie Estarziau noted vehicle theft has historically been a priority concern for the department due to the city’s proximity to Stockton and Modesto plus being on the Highway 99 corridor where four of the nation’s top 10 auto theft hot spots — Bakersfield, Modesto, Merced, and Fresno are located. And just to the west — San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward — made the latest list as No. 8 with 29,414 vehicle thefts or 6.4 per 1,000 residents.
Vehicle theft numerically and per 1,000 residents peaked in Manteca in 2005. That’s when 798 vehicles were stolen. The pace of thefts that year translated into 13.3 vehicles per 1,000 residents. The 798 vehicles stolen in 2005 included a big rig tractor left idling in front of a home and a Manteca Police patrol unit.
Manteca responded with stepped up enforcement including bait cars where vehicles were placed in high theft areas waiting for criminals to try to steal them. Once they jump started the vehicles, officers in unmarked vehicles would move in and activate a kill switch to turn off the engine. On one occasion in 2006, a bait car along Airport Way was in place for less than 5 minutes before an arrest was made.
The department also did an education blitz advising residents how best to secure their vehicles and to stop leaving keys in the ignition or engines running.
Back in 2005 just over 20 percent of the vehicles stolen in Manteca had keys in the ignition or had their engines running. That is now down to 5 percent, a figure the police chief said is in line with the national average.
Estarziau said part of Manteca’s success at cutting back its auto theft rates over the year can be credited with the dedication of a Manteca officer to the countywide task force combating auto theft that encompasses officers from Stockton, Lodi, and the CHP.
The 2017 statistics for Manteca reflected an additional drop in vehicle thefts. The city managed a 13.53 percent drop in auto theft going from 340 in 2016 to 294 last year. The only time the actual number was lower since 2000 was 270 in 2012 and 238 in 2011. The rate per 1,000 residents in 2017 was actually slightly higher at 3.80 last year as compared to 3.81 in 2012. The vehicle theft rate per 1,000 residents was 3.40 in 2011.
Estarziau is concerned, however, that vehicle theft may be inching back up. There were 70 cars stolen in Manteca in the first two months of 2018 compared to 54 in January and February of 2016. While a two-month window isn’t a good snapshot of how a year will turn out as crimes will sometimes drop in frequency as a year unfolds, it does represent a 29.63 percent increase — a trend that the police chief would like to knock down.
To that end Estarziau noted the top two theft cars in San Joaquin County are 1990s era Honda Civics and Accords followed in the No. 3 and No. 4 spots by early 2000s models of full-size Ford and Chevy pickups.’
She noted older cars not only lack up-to-date anti-theft technology but they also often had little model changes for a string of years making the parts interchangeable.
The top 10 theft cars in the United States for 2016 in descending order were the 1997 Honda Accord, 1998 Honda Civic, 2006 Ford full-size pick-up, 2009 Chevy full-size pick-up, 2009 Chevy Camaro, 2016 Toyota Camry, 2015 Nissan Altima, 2001 full-size Dodge pick-up, 2015 Toyota Camry, and the 2001 Grand Jeep Cherokee.
Estarziau said if your vehicle is stolen in Manteca, there is an 89 percent change it will be recovered as opposed to 85 percent nationwide.
The top theft spot in the country for car thefts in 2016 was Albuquerque, New Mexico, with 10,111 thefts or 11.14 per 1,000 residents.
Law enforcement has noted the common sense approach to protection is the simplest and most cost-effective way to thwart would-be thieves. Auto theft investigators recommend you should secure your vehicle even if parking for a brief period. You should always:
Remove your keys from the ignition
Lock your doors / close your windows
Park in a well-lit area
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