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Group Hopes Awareness Will Stall Car Thieves

Posted December 5, 2006
Updated December 6, 2006

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— An auto-insurance trade group doesn't want the holiday season to be a gift for car thieves, so they showed people Tuesday how fast a chop-shop crew can strip a car of its parts.

"Your car can be stolen and the valuable parts of it stripped in less time than it takes to go through the drive-thru and pick up a breakfast biscuit on your way to work," said Joe Stewart of the North Carolina Insurance Federation.

Several members of the insurance group moved as fast as a NASCAR pit crew Tuesday, dismantling a Volkswagen Jetta -- removing doors, seats, hood, trunk, fenders, tires -- in less than nine minutes.

Most thieves want cars for their parts, which can be easily resold for a huge profit, authorities said.

Brenna Hartley said her car was stolen from her driveway, and she lost more than her wheels.

"It was the middle of the night. I didn't hear anything. They probably did my car quicker than nine minutes because no one on my street heard or saw anything," Hartley said. "My registration was in there. All the documents related to the purchase of the car were in there. So, my credit information was in there along with other personal information, and they certainly know my name."

Every 25.5 seconds, a vehicle is stolen in the U.S. In North Carolina, 28,000 vehicles are stolen each year.

Officials said car thieves affect everyone's budget, even those whose cars aren't stolen.

"Anytime you've got a stolen vehicle that is insured, an insurance company is going to have to pay a claim to replace that vehicle, and anytime an insurance company pays a claim, that's the potential for higher rates for all of us," said Chrissy Pearson, the spokeswoman for the state Department of Insurance.

Etching a vehicle's identification number into various car parts helps deter car thieves by making parts easier to track and recover, authorities said. A Global-Positioning System device also is helpful, they said, adding that locking cars doors is often the best security.
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