Stolen-car transmitter has solid track record Crime: The LoJack system provides homing technology to locate stolen vehicles. New to Maryland, its equipment is credited with boosting recovery rates elsewhere.

The Intrepid Commuter

November 18, 1996

NOW THAT MARYLAND is using the LoJack electronic homing device to locate stolen cars, can we all sleep a little easier?

It works like this: When an owner reports the theft of a car equipped with the LoJack system, police send a radio signal that turns on the transmitter. This enables them to track the vehicle if it is in an area where police cars are equipped with receivers.

The service will be used by a handful of state police agencies -- at no charge to them. The cost is to car owners, or potential victims.

It's hard to say whether paying $595 for a homing device will help. But in other states and countries where the system is used, recovery rates are reportedly high. Sometimes cars are recovered within minutes of the theft.

A need certainly exists. In the first six months of this year, nearly 5,000 cars were stolen in Baltimore. Statewide, one in every 100 cars registered is stolen.

Everyone who has had a car stolen has a horror story. Particularly chilling was what happened to Intrepid One's neighbor.

He recently awoke at 3 a.m. to police banging at the front door to deliver news that his Honda had been taken and used as a getaway car in an armed robbery. The next day, he learned, the thieves were driving the stolen car through West Baltimore and struck and critically injured a child.

Later, after he bought a new set of wheels, police arrested two suspects outside his house casing the vehicle. The officers theorized that another auto theft was in progress after they found the car thief's weapon of choice, a long-neck screw driver, thrown in the shrubs nearby. This neighbor says he may become a poster child for LoJack.

If you want to cruise on the armchair superhighway, check out the LoJack web site at: http: //www.pbol.com/archer/ lojack.html.

New bus pads in Hampden aim to ease entrances, exits

Marla, of now-charming Hampden, wondered to Intrepid last week about the purpose of the concrete bus pads being installed in her neighborhood. Those islands will make it more convenient and comfortable for riders entering and exiting buses, Mass Transit Administration spokesman Anthony Brown says.

Selling the public on public transportation

Maryland Transportation Secretary David L. Winstead recently was asked how easy it is for state bureaucrats to persuade commuters to give up their cars in favor of public transportation -- bus, light rail or subway.

He acknowledged he's disappointed with ridership figures, saying increased ridership is a top challenge for his department.

He hopes more customers will come on board when the light rail line is expanded to Baltimore-Washington International Airport and to Hunt Valley.

He suggested a few experiments for state commuters:

"If one day out of the month riders would make a personal sacrifice by telecommuting from their home or deciding to car pool or deciding to take transit, you could increase transit ridership 20 percent. Personal behavior is very difficult to change, and the facts will tell you that automobile ridership is up. We do a decent job of selling those transit systems, but we're not as successful in trying to make the public more cognizant of what's truly available."

Let's hear your stories about mass transit choices

ISO SWITCH HITTERS: Looking for commuters who switched from driving cars to work to taking a bus, light rail or train. Also seeking commuters who gave up mass transit to drive to work. Interviews promised. Stories may be published. Call the Intrepid hot line at 783-1800, Ext. 4305, or from Anne Arundel County, dial 268-7736.

Shortcuts

Isabel Levin says she is perplexed about how to enter the new parking digs at Pennsylvania Station. You must enter by making a right into the train station from St. Paul Street and then hanging a quick left into the garage. It seems city officials designed this huge garage, then made it expensive and difficult to get into. In response to a query from Steve of Parkville, look for Central Avenue to be resurfaced (drum roll, please) by spring 1998, according to the city Department of Public Works. Look for rumbling shoulders on the side of the 42-mile Interstate 95 John F. Kennedy Memorial Highway between the White Marsh exit and the Delaware state line. That's where the Maryland Transportation Authority is installing rumble strips on the shoulder of the road to help avert run-off accidents. The $181,000 strips -- paid for with toll revenues -- will alert drivers that they have run off the road.

Pub Date: 11/18/96

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