Monday, April 4, 2016 | 2 a.m.
Lock your vehicles. Auto thefts are on the rise in the Las Vegas Valley.
The region’s three major police departments all reported more vehicle thefts during the first couple of months of 2016 than during the same period in 2015. Auto thefts rose 19, 69 and 46 percent, respectively, in Las Vegas, North Las Vegas and Henderson, police records show.
Metro Police’s auto theft detail investigates automobile, airplane, boat, moped, motorcycle and trailer thefts. Officers say simple actions by drivers can help reduce vehicle theft significantly.
Reduce your chances of becoming a victim of auto theft by:
• 60 percent: Always locking your vehicle
• 20 percent: Rolling up your windows
• 80 percent: Removing the keys from your vehicle’s ignition
• 10 percent: Hiding valuables
Also, avoid leaving your vehicle unattended in parking lots for long periods of time. Parking in a busy place is a natural deterrent to theft.
Anti-theft devices also may help deter thieves looking for transportation or vehicles to take on a joy ride. Many devices can be added to a vehicle after-market.
In Las Vegas, an average of 27 vehicles were stolen each day from Jan. 1 to March 12. In North Las Vegas, 211 vehicles were stolen from Jan. 1 to Feb. 29.
“Vehicle theft has always been a problem in this town,” North Las Vegas Officer Aaron Patty said. “It comes down to hiring more bodies. It won’t fix it all, but it’s something to work with.”
Police across the valley say there isn’t any one reason for the increase. Most auto thieves are amateurs who steal vehicles for joy rides or transportation within the city, then abandon them, Metro Police Lt. Glen Lowe said. Older cars are easier to take because they lack electronic key lock systems.
Experts say anti-theft technologies that in the past kept car thieves at bay have led criminals to become more clever. Some prey on rental-car fleets or use falsified ownership titles.
Sheriff Joe Lombardo said property crime traditionally increases when the economy improves because more items are available to steal.
In addition, Southern Nevada has seen an influx of gang members and recently released prisoners from California, Lombardo said.
No neighborhood is immune. Auto theft is spread valleywide. However, the more populated an area, the more vehicles typically are stolen, Metro Police Officer Laura Meltzer said.
Las Vegas’ southeast and south central neighborhoods saw the largest increase in car thefts in the city, 62 percent (301 vehicles) and 30 percent (260 vehicles) respectively. In Henderson, 131 vehicles were stolen, compared with 90 during the first months of 2015.
“The numbers for vehicle theft are on an upswing compared to last year as well as the five-year average,” Henderson police spokeswoman Michelle French said.
The number of scooter thefts also has increased significantly, French said. Scooters are relatively easy to steal and difficult to track since they aren’t required to be registered.
Police suspect the numbers could continue to rise. Auto thefts, and property crimes in general, typically increase in summer, Metro Police Officer Larry Hadfield said. In hot weather, people tend to leave their cars running to keep them cool. Residents often leave their homes more often and stay out later. Windows and garages are left open.
Children being out of school also can contribute to increases in crime, Hadfield said.
Preventive measures, however, can curb thefts.
Reporting vehicle thefts also helps.
“If you don’t know that a crime has occurred, it’s really hard to deal with it,” Meltzer said.
Local police agencies have a strong record of recovering stolen vehicles. During the first months of 2016, Metro Police found 1,300 stolen automobiles. In general, the department has a recovery rate of 75 percent for all stolen vehicles, and most are found within seven days.