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Vehicle Theft Rose Steeply in N.C.

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FAYETTEVILLE — More and more, North Carolina vehicle owners are the targets of thieves. From 1987 to 1996 the rate of motor vehicle thefts in North Carolina increased by 51 percent.

The cost to vehicle owners is close to $150 million, but there are steps people can take to protect their investments.

Just Wednesday afternoon on Durham's Fayetteville Street, a county deputy spotted a vehicle that had been reported stolen. The driver abandoned the car and his three passengers and got away on foot.

In the front seat deputies found a stun gun. Crime prevention expert Vickie Hartford says any car, even an older one, is a potential targets.

Hartford says that, in another month, new reflective vehicle decals will help stop car thefts. A new program called "Watch Your Car", began in Texas and is spreading to other states such as North Carolina.

Statistics show that most car thefts occur during dark morning hours, but even daytime thefts can be discouraged if people use a layered approach to security.

Park in well lit, populated areas, hide valuables, use a steering wheel lock and alarm system, particularly those a thief can see or hear. Studies have shown that when a vehicle has a visible deterrent it is four times less likely to be stolen or broken into.

The "Watch Your Car" program is also designed to help police officers identify stolen vehicles even when they cross state lines. The decals will be available in 30 to 45 days.


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