Police Mark 9-Month Decrease In Auto Thefts In Las Vegas Area

The use of bait cars and a beefed-up auto theft unit appear to be helping to curb auto thefts in southern Nevada, and could make a dent in the area's rank as first in the nation for stolen cars, police said.

The number of vehicles stolen in Clark County dropped about 15 percent in the first nine months of 2007, compared with the same period in 2006, according to Las Vegas police statistics.

Police changed tactics, said Lt. Robert DuVall, head of the department's property crimes bureau, after Clark County had 22,441 vehicles stolen in 2006, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau, a national insurance organization.

"We had to swallow our pride," DuVall told the Las Vegas Review-Journal for a Wednesday report. "We had to realize that what we were doing wasn't working."

The 1991 Honda Accord was the most commonly stolen vehicle in Nevada in 2006, according to the Nevada Insurance Council, followed
by the 1995 Honda Civic, the 1990 Toyota Camry, the 1994 Nissan Sentra and the 2005 Dodge Ram pickup.

Police have been using license plate scanners in some areas to check for stolen cars, and a cooperative Vehicle Investigations Project for Enforcement and Recovery team has been split into two units. The so-called VIPER effort also includes Nevada Highway Patrol, Henderson and North Las Vegas police.

One unit focuses on professional car thieves and chop shops, which DuVall said account for about 30 percent of auto thefts.

The other unit goes after joy-riders and people who steal vehicles to
commit other crimes.

DuVall said more than 160 arrests in the last year have involved the use of bait cars, which are outfitted with video surveillance and can be remotely disabled by police.

North Las Vegas has seen a 13 percent drop in auto thefts in the first nine months of 2007 compared with the same period in 2006, said Officer Sean Walker, spokesman for the department.

Henderson has had 942 auto thefts in 2007 compared with 1,379 for all of 2006, said Keith Paul, spokesman for Henderson police, where a breakdown for auto thefts for the first nine months of 2006 wasn't available.

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