Auto theft in reverse
Ford credits police strategies, court support
Sheldon Williams, Gleaner Writer
Motor-vehicle theft is again trending downwards, with the police attributing this welcome reduction to their proactive strategies and operations.
Data from the Statistics and Information Management Unit in the Research, Planning and Legal Services Branch of the Jamaica Constabulary Force shows 275 motor vehicles reported stolen up to August 2 this year. That figure comprises 214 cars, 21 trucks, 19 buses and 21 bikes.
Well over the halfway mark for 2014, if the rate of motor-vehicle theft continues there should be yet another dip in the annual figure. Last year, 587 vehicles were reported stolen, while 2012 recorded 701 reported cases.
In 2012, 52 bikes were reported stolen, compared with 53 in 2013. The theft of 39 buses was recorded in 2012, compared with 43 in 2013. Cars consistently represent the highest number of thefts, with 572 reported stolen in 2012, compared with 461 last year.
The figures continue to dip under the watchful eye of Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Cornwall 'Bigga' Ford. Ford heads the Flying Squad, which has responsibility for the Stolen Vehicle Recovery Unit. He attributed the decline in thefts to, among other factors, the persistent actions of the police.
"We have become more robust in our investigations and we constantly check chop shops. We check more of the shops on the highways and byways and we have been recovering cars and arresting people," Ford said.
He also noted improvements in the use of technology. "Forensic analysis of cars has been stepped up and we are rolling out a number of people from the forensic units," Ford said. In addition, there are frequent visits by the unit to to police stations to sensitise police officers in general, and Ford says this has contributed to the clampdown.
Greater police presence at public events which attract a large number of vehicles parked together has also proved a deterrent to motor vehicle thieves. "When you have events like the Grand Gala, we mark some of our cars with our number and at events like these we roll out the units and patrol with the blue lights to deter and detect," Ford said.
He also identified the effectiveness of the courts as a contributing factor. "We have been getting maximum support from the courts when we put matters before them," Ford said.
The SSP also encouraged owners to affix unit marks to their motor vehicles which, if they are stolen, will make identification after recovery easier. "Put some identifying marks on your vehicles. Put something that is unique to you so that when we recover it you can say, yes this is mine," he insisted.
Ford also urged motorists to be mindful that car thieves no longer target select models. " Dem tek everything,"
The St Andrew Central Police Division had the dubious distinction of having the highest number of motor vehicles stolen in both 2012 and 2013. In 2012, 239 were reported stolen, compared with 121 last year. In both years, St Catherine North was identified as the second-ranked motor vehicle theft hotspot. Sixty-eight were reported stolen in 2012 and 97 last year in that division.
In 2012, St Mary ranked third on the motor-vehicle theft list, with 36 cases reported. However, St Ann ranked third in 2013, with 33 motor vehicles reported stolen.
St Thomas stood out as the safest parish for motor vehicle owners in 2012 and 2013, recording only two thefts over both years. One bus and a car were reported stolen in 2012, and one bike and a truck last year.