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Auto thefts on rise but targets may surprise you
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Manteca is sandwiched between Stockton and Modesto — the No. 3 and No. 5 worst cities in the nation for vehicle theft.
As a result vehicle theft has been an issue in Manteca.
The good news is after auto thefts in Manteca peaked in 2004 with 789 vehicle stolen cars or 1.425 per thousand residents it went into a steep numerical climb for seven years as well as a per 1,000 decline for 11 years.
It hit a numerical low in 2010 with 238 vehicle thefts. But the per 1,000 theft rate — a true indication of what is happening given population growth — didn’t start creeping back up until last year.
That’s the bad news.
There were 406 vehicles stolen in 2015 — the first time since 2006 when more than 400 had been swiped. At the same time, however, the theft rate per 1,000 started to edge upward. It was 0.54 per 1,000 for 2014. While that is more than 60 percent lower than the per 1,000 rate in 2004, it represents a trend Manteca Police don’t want to see.
So far this year 109 vehicles have been stolen through the end of March compared to 74 at the same point in 2015.  If the pace continues, the year will end with 436 vehicle thefts.
To help make sure you don’t help make that happen there are a number of things you can do.
uDon’t leave your car running unattended or keys in the ignition.
In 2004 when more than two cars were being stolen every day in Manteca almost a quarter of those thefts were because keys were left in ignitions or engines running on whether doors were locked or not.
Police tackled the wave of auto thefts by setting up bait cars in high crime areas to catch auto thieves in the act and then cutting off the engine. That no longer works as criminals have gotten a bit smarter.
They also did a full-scale education effort telling the public repeatedly to not keep their engines running or keys in the ignition. At one point, a semi-truck tractor was stolen in front of a Manteca residence where the driver had left the engine running. Police – along with the CHP – got involved in a high speed chase and got lost when the theft took the truck off the Altamont Pass freeway and cut across train tracks and left the truck in a field and fled on foot.
“Thieves are going to look for easy pickings,” Police Chief Nick Obligacion said. “If they’re driving through a neighborhood and see a car running or (keys in the ignition) those are the cars most likely to get stolen.”
uPark cars in garages.
It’s an obvious anti-theft move. Manteca Police over the years have yet to report a car stolen from inside a residential garage. There have bene commercial ventures targeted, however, with vehicles that were secured in a building.
uUse an anti-theft steering wheel locking device.
Obligacion noted rare is the vehicle stolen that has such a device in use. That’s because it slows down criminals and forces them to break the steering column that in turn makes the vehicle difficult if not impossible to drive.
The shocker for some may be the top nine theft cars in San Joaquin County are specific models between 1987 and 2001.  Newer vehicles that have key FOBs and alarm systems are much tougher to steal.
“That doesn’t mean they won’t steal a Mercedes if they really wanted to,” Obligacion said. “It’s just that newer cars are much harder to steal and take more time.”
The vehicles on the list have parts that are easily interchangeable between model years.
The police chief said criminal will take the path of least resistance.
That is why the Manteca Police Department as part of the Delta Regional Auto Theft Team offers free anti-theft devices to those who own a vehicle that falls in the top nine targeted in the county. All you need to do is stop by the police station, own one of the cars on the list and verify that you are a San Joaquin County resident and the vehicle currently registered.
“You also have to use it,” Obligacion said. “It doesn’t do any good if you keep it in the back seat.”
The top nine most stolen vehicles in San Joaquin County are:
1. 1989 to 1997 Honda Accord
2. 1988 to 2000 Honda Civic
3. 1987 to 1996 Toyota Camry
4. 1990 to 1998 Acura Integra
5. 1993 to 1998 Saturn SL
6. 1992 to 1994 Nissan Sentra
7. 1989 to 2001 Chevy Pickup
8. 1987 to 1995 Toyota Pickup
9. 1987 to 1995 Nissan Pickup

To contact Dennis Wyatt, email