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San Fernando
Tuesday, Dec 6, 2022
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Get a Quick Read on Car Thefts

Violent crime is down, but auto theft is up. In a city as car-dependent as Los Angeles, this is a problem that cannot be ignored. One of the most important means that law enforcement uses to identify and return stolen cars is the checking of license plates. A police officer, working as many hours as humanly possible, while doing other police work, can check perhaps a few dozen license plates each day while driving the streets of the San Fernando Valley. But technology, and the West Valley LAPD Boosters, are changing that few dozen to thousands of plates checked daily. With the help of the Boosters and Westfield Topanga, two fully computerized high-tech license plate readers have been purchased and installed on police vehicles. These readers that are now being used to help find stolen cars in hours and days instead of the weeks and months it normally takes to recover stolen cars in Our Valley. The first of these license plate readers was installed in a Hummer, which was loaned to the LAPD by the non-profit Boosters and the second has been installed in a black-and- white police car. Each of these new high tech computerized camera systems can check over 5,000-8,000 license plates in an average shift. With the help of this system, the LAPD is now able to recover stolen cars still intact with criminals with outstanding warrants caught behind the wheel. The results so far have been amazing and we have just touched the tip of the iceberg. According to the LAPD, in a 6 month period, on a 4 day 10 hour shift, 200 parked stolen vehicles were recovered and 50 were recovered with suspects arrested. West Valley LAPD’s success rate has been so good that other divisions have begun to jump on the band wagon. With the assistance of local community organizations, the needed capital has been raised to buy several more of these license plate readers. Based on the excellent results so far (with only a couple of license plate readers in a few divisions), one can only imagine what the results would be if every police vehicle in all each of the City’s twenty-one divisions were similarly equipped. Vehicle theft in the City of Los Angeles would eventually be at the bottom of the crime list. So why isn’t this technology in every police vehicle? Think about who really gains when a car is recovered intact. The city? The police? The victim with car insurance? How about the insurance companies that insure these vehicles? That’s right; the good old insurance companies would benefit most. You know, the ones that feel an obligation to their shareholders to just raise the premiums when things just don’t go their way. If we could only convince the insurance industry to be proactive and contribute some of the necessary funds to install this wonderful technology in all of our police vehicles, auto theft could be reduced overnight. One could take this a step further; overall crime would be reduced, since many unlawful acts are committed with the use of stolen cars for transportation. More license plate readers would greatly increase the chances of catching criminals before or soon after the commission of robberies and other crimes. The benefit to everyone would eventually lead to lower insurance premiums. Insurance companies, are you listening? Rickey M. Gelb is managing general partner of Gelb Enterprises, a real estate development and property management company.

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