Accords, Caravans favorites in thefts Dodge minivan is new to list topped by Honda

March 27, 1997|By Kris Antonelli | Kris Antonelli,Maryland Vehicle Theft Prevention Council Total car thefts Jurisdiction .. .. .. ... 1992 .. . 1993 .. . 1994 .. . 1995 .. . 1996 Anne Arundel County . .. 2,101 ... 1,854 ... 1,806 ... 1,863 ... 1,797 Baltimore City . .. .. 11,332 .. 10,672 .. 13,603 .. 11,210 .. 11,186 Baltimore County .. .. . 5,619 ... 5,477 ... 6,289 ... 5,406 ... 4,751 Carroll County . .. .. .. 182 .. .. 177 .. .. 168 .. .. 184 .. .. 170 Harford County . .. .. .. 349 .. .. 326 .. .. 403 .. .. 345 .. .. 399 Howard County .. .. .. .. 935 ... 1,083 ... 1,157 .. .. 844 .. .. 787 Montgomery County . .. . 3,134 ... 3,159 ... 3,370 .. 3,388 ... 3,329 Prince George's County 10,210 ... 9,344 ... 9,476 .. 10,864 .11,633Maryland Uniform Crime Report Pub Date: 3/27/97 SUN STAFF

The Dodge Caravan -- a popular minivan with families and the "soccer mom" crowd -- has also come to be a favorite of car thieves statewide who need only a screwdriver and a few seconds to drive away in one.

According to statistics released this week by the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, the same Dodge Caravan seen lining up near schools and playgrounds was the second most popular model stolen last year.

The car stolen most often was the Honda Accord, which has topped the list for years.

The Caravan "is so easy to steal," said Sgt. Robert J. Jagoe of the Baltimore and Baltimore County Regional Auto Theft Team. vTC "Most of the time, all you need is a common butter knife to get in and a screwdriver to get it started."

It was the minivan's first appearance on the "most-wanted" list, according to the Maryland Vehicle Theft Prevention Council, and comes as car thefts overall are declining.

Statewide, auto thefts fell 5.6 percent in the past two years -- the first time since 1983 the number has declined for two consecutive years, according to state public safety officials.

Because so many models exist, a model can make the "most-wanted" list even if relatively few of them are stolen.

For example, of the 27,570 cars stolen in Baltimore and Baltimore and Prince George's counties, 400 were Caravans and 800 were Accords, according to the theft prevention council.

Still, the minivan apparently is an attractive target because it is easy to steal.

It took only seconds for a thief to steal Mary Hughes' tan 1995 Caravan, which was parked in front of her home in the 8300 block of Pleasant Plains Road in Towson on Saturday night.

"Our van was the only thing we had to take our child around in," she said yesterday. "I kept everything in the van, including the stroller, because it was the most convenient place for it."

Her van still was missing yesterday.

And it was daylight March 18 when Edgar Kalab's 1996 Caravan was stolen from the driveway of his home in the 2000 block of N. Rolling Road.

"I had just gotten out of it," Kalab said. "It was 10: 30 in the morning, and when I pulled into my driveway, I didn't even see anybody standing around. I literally just turned around and it was gone."

Kalab's van was found by the end of the day in good condition, parked on a city street, according to the police report.

The minivan, police say, is used by "hackers" -- illegal cabdrivers who use it to shuttle people around town, police said.

Jagoe remembers a case March 18 in which detectives in the North Avenue area spotted a shiny new stolen Caravan being driven by a young man. Officers stopped the vehicle, and found that the van had been used by a hacker.

"It still had the new car smell," Jagoe said. "But all of the magic was lost after that. It was a mess inside, with food spills and food wrappers."

In general, however, Baltimore-area police say car thefts are declining and attribute the trend to a public-awareness campaign begun in 1995 and several new programs.

Those initiatives include one that gives city and county residents free stickers for the back window of their car giving police permission to stop the vehicle between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. without having seen a traffic violation.

Now, Baltimore police are using federal funds to give away the Club steering-wheel anti-theft device to car owners who drive models that frequently are stolen and live in Northeast and Northwest Baltimore -- which are particularly hard-hit areas.

Models stolen most often

1. Honda Accord

2. Dodge Caravan

3. Oldsmobile Cutlass

4. Acura Legend

5. Jeep Cherokee

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