Modesto police propose auto theft law

kvaline@modbee.comSeptember 7, 2013 

    alternate text Kevin Valine
    Title: Reporter
    Coverage areas: City of Modesto and nonprofits
    Bio: Kevin Valine has been a copy editor and reporter at The Bee since January 2006. He's worked at the Reno Gazette-Journal, Sarasota (Fla.) Herald-Tribune and Paradise Post as a reporter and copy editor. He's a graduate of San Jose State.
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— Modesto police hope to curb auto thefts by requiring car dealers to install anti-theft devices on some of the vehicles they sell to the public.

Police Chief Galen Carroll is expected to discuss the proposal Monday at the City Council's Safety & Communities Committee. The full council would have to pass an ordinance for the proposal to take effect.

The National Insurance Crime Bureau often ranks Stanislaus County, which it refers to as the Modesto Metropolitan Statistical Area, first or second in the nation for auto thefts per capita.

The Modesto area was ranked No. 1 in 2012, with about 817 cars stolen per 100,000 people. Some context: The Salinas area had a rate of 413 vehicles stolen per 100,000 people; the Santa Cruz area 309 per 100,000; and the San Luis Obispo area 136 per 100,000.

Carroll's proposal would require any business in the city that sells autos — such as dealerships, auction yards and tow yards — to install a hidden device or switch that disables the vehicle's fuel delivery or ignition system. In a report for Monday's meeting, Carroll wrote that these devices typically cost $50 to $70.

The proposal does not apply to private sellers.

This requirement would apply only to the National Insurance Crime Bureau's annual list of the top 10 stolen vehicles. The current list for California consists of:

• 1994 Honda Accord

• 1998 Honda Civic

• 1991 Toyota Camry

• 1994 Acura Integra

• 2004 Chevrolet pickup

• 2006 Ford pickup

• 1994 Nissan Sentra

• 2010 Toyota Corolla

• 1997 Nissan Altima

• 1988 Toyota pickup

Carroll said Friday that the vehicles on the top-10 list make up two-thirds to three-quarters of all of the vehicles stolen each year in Modesto, so any reduction in their thefts would have a big impact. These vehicles are stolen often because they are easy to steal.

He said he has not vetted his proposal with car dealers and other businesses that sell vehicles. Carroll expects some of them may have concerns but would buy into his program because auto theft is such a huge problem here.

Representatives with several Modesto used-car dealers were not available for comment Friday afternoon or said they did not sell the vehicles on the top-10 list and declined to comment.

Carroll said he has discussed his proposal with the county's other police chiefs and the Sheriff's Department. He said if his proposal succeeds, he hopes the county and its other cities will adopt it.

He said he is not aware of any other community that requires car sellers to install anti-theft devices on vehicles that are frequently stolen.

The proposal calls for businesses that sell autos to maintain a current list of the top-10 stolen vehicles. They also must keep a supply of current Police Department auto theft prevention pamphlets. The pamphlets would be given to customers who purchase any of the most stolen vehicles.

To review the proposal, go to and click on the link for the agenda for Monday's meeting.

Bee staff writer Kevin Valine can be reached at or (209) 578-2316.

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