Oahu Auto Thefts Drop More Than 40 Percent

June 11, 2008

Auto thefts on Oahu is down by more than 40 percent over a five-year period.

Car thefts dropped from a record high of nearly 8,500 in 2002 — an average of more than 23 vehicles per day — to just under 5,000 thefts for 2007, according to police.

Nationally, Honolulu has dropped from 21 to 82 on a list of the 361 largest cities with the highest number of stolen vehicles per 100,000 people, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau.

Tim Dayton, general manager of Geico Hawaii, said the number of stolen vehicles could drop even further this year. Dayton, citing theft numbers tracked by the insurance industry, said as of May, 1,100 vehicles had been stolen in Hawaii.

Honolulu police credit increased public awareness and education along with an aggressive campaign called “Operation Pit Stop” for the drop in car theft numbers on Oahu.

Under “Operation Pit Stop,” police hold and charge everyone arrested for possession of a stolen car. Previously, they would only hold the offenders they considered most dangerous.

Police Maj. Carlton Nishimura says the new policy, which started in 2003, helps head off other crimes such as burglaries, other thefts, drug abuse and financial fraud that often involve use of the stolen car.

“There’s a strong link between the auto theft (and other crimes),” said Nishimura, who heads HPD’s criminal investigations division. “The emphasis of the police department was to break this cycle.”

The program is in place in four of the police department’s eight districts although Michelle Yu, a police spokeswoman, said there are no plans to add the program to other districts.

Waikiki was the only district that saw car thefts increase to 276 in 2007 from 242 the previous year.

Nishimura said the increase in Waikiki could be the result of tourists not being able to identify a suspect, criminals leaving the area quickly or victims refusing to return for a trial.

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