Saturn Thefts Plague Truckee Meadows

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For the second time in just under two years, car thieves in the Reno-Sparks area are on the prowl for Saturns.

Police say at least 14 of the cars have been taken in recent weeks - apparently for joyrides. Eight were taken on Thursday alone.

As in the first two months of 2002, when 26 Saturns were reported stolen, thieves are taking advantage of a vulnerable ignition system.

The company and the local dealer say the cars are no easier to steal than any other.

But in last year's flurry of thefts, Deputy Reno Police Chief Jim Weston said older Saturns could be driven away by using something as simple as a nail file to compromise the ignition.

Since 2000, they've been equipped with a device that stops the flow of gasoline to a stolen car.

This year's bandits are targeting 1992 thought 1995 models, according to Sparks Police Lt. Ken Lightfoot.

"If I own a Saturn, I'm going to buy myself a Club," he said, encouraging the purchase of an anti-theft device. "That won't make it immune to being stolen, but it will make it easier for a thief to move on to the next guy."

Sparks Detective Commander Bob Schmidt said a Club alone is only a temporary deterrent, since a determined thief with enough time can saw through the steering wheel in less than a minute.

He advises adding a shield-type device that goes over the steering wheel to prevent thieves from sawing through it.

Schmidt said most of the Saturns that are being recovered haven't been taken far.

"It looks like, in many cases, they're taking them ... in one parking lot and them dropping them in another parking lot," he said.