• Center for Problem oriented policing

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Summary of Responses to Thefts of and from Cars on Residential Streets & Driveways

The table below summarizes the responses in this guide, the mechanism by which they are intended to work, the conditions under which they ought to work best, and some factors you should consider before implementing a particular response. It is critical that you tailor responses to local circumstances, and that you can justify each response based on reliable analysis. In most cases, an effective strategy will involve implementing several different responses. Law enforcement responses alone are seldom effective in reducing or solving the problem.

Because of the lack of evaluative research all responses are considered to be of uncertain effectiveness and should be adopted on an experimental basis with a high premium placed on carefully measuring their success or failure.

General Considerations for an Effective Response Strategy
Response No.ResponseHow It WorksWorks Best If…Considerations
1 Promoting sales of cars with in-built security systems Make theft of cars more difficult…manufacturers design security into carsLocal police limited to educating car owners about theft prevention
2 Partnering with business Increases resources available to address problempolice and businesses understand one another's interestsRequires time and effort to develop close relationships with business
3 Promoting securely-designed neighborhoods Provides secure places to park carslocal police work with developers and planners in initial design ofneighborhoodsRequires expertise in crime prevention through environmental design
4 Educating patrol officers about car theft patterns Enhances officers' abilities to detect and prevent car crimestraining supported by reliable data and knowledgeMay add training costs
Response No.ResponseHow It WorksWorks Best IfConsiderations
5 Improving lighting Increases risk of detection to offenderhomeowners install and utilize additional lighting around their homes and/or local townships add additional street lightingLocal townships may lack funds for additional lighting; homeowners may also lack the funds or motivation for installation of additional lighting
6 Removing vegetation and other cover Increases chances of thief's discoveryhomeowners are made aware of the benefitsRequires time and effort from homeowners and/or public works agencies
7 Changing or restricting traffic patterns Makes it more difficult for thieves to escape the scene of the crimeentrance and exit points ofparking lots and housing subdivisions are limitedChanging traffic patterns may be inconvenient for local residents; may require government approval
8 Installing and monitoring video surveillance (CCTV) Increases offenders' perceived risk ofapprehensioncameras are visibly placed in residential streets combined with signs or media publicity regarding their presenceCameras must be visible in order to be effective; privacy concerns; sprawl of suburban areas requires many cameras and signs
Response No.ResponseHow It WorksWorks Best IfConsiderations
9 Alerting car owners about theft problems and educating them about known risk factors and effective prevention Increases likelihood car owners will take effective measures to prevent car crimewith cooperation ofmass media and local community groupsOutreach activities are demanding in cost and time to police; difficult to get car owners to implement security procedures
Response No.ResponseHow It WorksWorks Best IfConsiderations
10 Increasing patrols Increases the risk to offenders and helps inform officers of risky locations in neighborhoodfoot and bicycle patrols are employed along with volunteer units to patrol areasAvailability of manpower and overtime funds for increased patrols; rarely a long-term solution
11 Prosecuting offenders Increases perceived costs to offenderrepeat offenders are targeted for full prosecutionProsecutor's office must be fully aware of the community and/or political concern to reduce theft
12 Using "bait cars"Provides a target for thieves and a means for police to rapidly respond and apprehend offendersthe cars are equipped with high-tech features such as GPS tracking, automatic alerts to dispatchers or patrols, and remote disabling of the car's engineHigh cost of bait car units; placement of the bait car in a widely dispersed community
13 Tracking stolen goods Discourages thieves from selling stolen propertypolice educate store owners about the problemCooperation of store owners may be compromised by fear of prosecution
Responses With Limited Effectiveness
Response No.ResponseHow It WorksWorks Best IfConsiderations
14 Warning offenders Intended to increase the perceived risk of apprehension and punishmentoffenders are genuinely unaware of the risk of arrest and punishment and risk is not negligibleMost thieves are aware of the risk of apprehension and prosecution
15 Diverting youthful offenders Provides attractive venues for youths seeking excitementyouthful offenders are motivated by legitimate alternatives to crime
16 Implementing "Vehicle Watch" programs Intended to increase risk of apprehension by policeStickers are easily defeated by scraping or covering
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