Door locks are not enough to put enterprising car thieves out of business -- motorists need common sense, as well as inexpensive anti-theft devices that will make their cars a tougher target.
"The No. 1 thing people can do is have some common sense," said Sgt. Bob Jagoe of the Baltimore County and Baltimore City Regional Auto Theft Task Force, who yesterday released the results of a study on theft prevention techniques. "Many of the cars stolen have keys left in the ignition, and the car is not equipped with any kind of anti-theft device."
According to the study by Baltimore County police, 95 percent of recovered stolen cars during a four-month period in 1995 did not have any kind of anti-theft device.
Many also were stolen while the engine was running or when keys were left in the ignition. And 72 percent did not have a hidden "kill switch" that would have cut off fuel or electricity when a car is started without turning off the switch.
Kill switches vary in cost from about $10 to about $125, said Jon Hoch of the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB), a nonprofit prevention group based in Illinois.
Metal bars that act as steering wheel locks range from $25 to $100, and motorists should also use theft deterrent decals that cost as little as $2, he said.
According to police statistics, 5,377 cars were stolen in Baltimore County last year and 11,172 were stolen in Baltimore City.
Those numbers appear to be dropping this year, police said, with 3,712 cars stolen in the county and 8,437 taken in the city between January and September.
The most popular car among thieves in the Baltimore area is the four-door Honda Accord, according to NICB.
"It's easy to bend the windows out," Jagoe said. "In our test runs, we were able to get into the car and pull the window out in less than 40 seconds."
In line after the Accord is the Dodge Shadow, according to the NICB. In descending order after that are the Plymouth Acclaim, Dodge Spirit, Acura Legend, Plymouth Sundance, Dodge Caravan, Ford Escort, Oldsmobile Cutlass and, lastly, the Dodge Dynasty.
The Accord, said Floyd Raleigh of the NICB, is a victim of the law of averages: It is a popular top-selling car.
"There is no specific reason why these cars are being stolen more than others in the Baltimore area," Raleigh said. "Stolen cars are region-specific.
"For example, pickup trucks are stolen a lot in the Southwest," he said. "And on the West Coast, four-by-fours are popular among thieves."
Baltimore County police were one of four departments to receive the NICB Vehicle Theft Award of Merit, Hoch said, for their automated program that calls new car owners to inform them about theft prevention measures.
Pub Date: 11/19/96