Center for Problem-Oriented Policing

Summary of Responses to Export of Stolen Vehicles Across Land Borders

The table summarizes the responses to the problem of auto theft for export, the mechanism by which these responses are intended to work, the conditions under which they ought to work, and some factors you should consider before implementing the suggested response. It is critical that you tailor responses to local circumstances, and that you can justify each response based on reliable analysis. As noted earlier, an effective strategy might involve implementing several different responses, and you are therefore encouraged to take this into consideration. Also, keep in mind that law enforcement responses alone are seldom effective in reducing or solving the problem.

Response No.ResponseHow It WorksWorks Best If…Considerations
Local Police Responses
1Paying close
attention to high-risk
parking facilities
Directs police
attention to the lots
that require more
patrolling and that
might be made more
....the analysis is
conducted regularly
and the highest-risk
facilities are
given priority; risk
assessments account
for the lot's distance
to a freeway
Police must work
closely with the
facilities' owners and
managers to ensure
needed security
improvements are
2Increasing public
Citizens are
made aware of
the problem and
their potential
campaigns focus on
specific high-risk
models and provide
detailed advice about
preventing theft
Publicity campaigns
are often more
valuable as a way
of reassuring the
community than of
preventing crime
3Encouraging citizens
to cooperate with
police in vehicle
Involves the
community in
efforts to reduce
vehicle theft
....there is extensive
participation and
initial successes are
heavily publicized in
the local area
The program can
serve as a valuable
public relations
tool and can reduce
fear of theft among
participating citizens
4Encouraging use
of vehicle-tracking
The technology
transmits real-time
information to the
police about the
vehicle's location;
this assists in
recovery and serves
as a deterrent to
....the vehicle hasn't
left the country; the
technology works
over a wide area and
is used by many
law enforcement
The systems are
not affordable for
many citizens.
The technology's
effectiveness is
reduced once the
vehicle crosses the
international border
5Using "bait vehicles"
with tracking devices
Bait vehicles with
remote control
technologies are
planted in high-theft
areas and tracked
once stolen results in the
arrest of the thieves;
potential thieves are
made aware of the
risk of choosing a
bait car and are thus
deterred from theft
The vehicles used
might need to be
changed regularly to
avoid predictability
6Working to establish
a task force that
focuses on the
international trade
in stolen cars
Agencies at the local,
state, and federal
levels cooperate
to enhance
leading to arrests for
theft of vehicles for
partnerships are
forged not just
between U.S.
law enforcement
agencies, but also
with those in
Law enforcement
priorities across
agencies can be
different; this might
serve as a hindrance
if common priorities
are not established
7Employing "DUI"
checkpoints before
the border
DUI checkpoints
have proven
effective in arresting
individuals for a
variety of crimes,
including motor
vehicle theft.
Vehicles failing
to stop would be
....the checkpoints
are deployed at
random times and at
different points on
roads leading to the
allowable police
tactics would offer
a partial solution to
the difficulties of
checking cars at the
border crossings
Other Agency Responses
8Repatriating vehicles
by treaty
A formal stolen
vehicle recovery
method is used
....there is close
cooperation among
the U.S. Consulate,
the FBI, and the
NICB. The time
of recovery and
repatriation does not
extend over several
The delays in
repatriation have
sometimes resulted
in law enforcement
agencies on both
sides of the border
making use of
informal agreements
to recover stolen
automatic license
plate readers (LPRs)
at border crossings
The readers provide
real-time vehicle
information to the
Customs and Border
Protection network,
identifying stolen
vehicles by cross-referencing
it against
a stolen vehicles
database readers
are deployed in a
random fashion.
LPRs are deployed
not just at the
border but also on
roads leading to the
License-plate readers
are sometimes
inaccurate; many
cars are driven
across the border
before their theft is
Responses with Limited Effectiveness
monitoring all
border crossings
Checking a high
volume of vehicles at
border crossings and
on the international
bridges at peak times
....this does not
cause any significant
border crossing
delays and does not
require extensive
police or other
If it works at the
specific border
crossing, examine
the possible
displacement to
nearby border
crossings and bridges