Mon, 05 May 2003

Most auto thieves are professionals: Analyst

Damar Harsanto, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

If you believe that most auto thefts are committed by mere opportunists, and feel safe equipping your car with conventional security locks and alarms, be prepared to become a target.

One criminologist said the number of vehicles being stolen indicated the most thefts were the work of professional groups of highly skilled criminals.

"The car thieves no longer rely merely on luck. They have abandoned that path. They are now really professional and work together as solid teams," said Adrianus Meliala, a criminologist at the University of Indonesia.

Adrianus said a series of interviews with he conducted with several auto thieves, some still active and some retired, showed that most groups of car thieves could steal two vehicles a day.

Because the thieves work in teams, Adrianus said, they can steal a car parked in a garage in three to five minutes, if the vehicle is protected only by standard locks and alarms.

Most auto thieves targeting vehicles in housing estates use a similar method: a brief survey of the surroundings, open the gate, disarm the alarm, unlock the car door with a T-key or a screwdriver or gain entrance by breaking a window, push the car to a safe place and then start the vehicle with a T-key.

"They (the thieves) always survey the situation and the surroundings before stealing a car," Adrianus said.

The types of vehicles stolen also vary widely, based on what the thieves' fences want, Adrianus said.

"Most thieves steal cars based on orders from the fences," he said.

Some thieves target cars parked along the side of the road or in shopping centers where the parking systems are relatively loose, he said.

"But most thieves prefer to look for easier targets, so one thing you can do to daunt thieves is equip your vehicle with more advanced security systems," Adrianus said.

The head of the city police's auto theft section, Comr. Dwi Irianto, agreed with Adrianus, saying most auto thieves working today were highly skilled and highly mobile.

In most cases, the thieves move the stolen cars out of town to prevent the police from tacking them, the officer said.

We do not have an online data system that would allow police departments around the country to exchange information on grand theft auto cases, Dwi said.

According to data from the city police, fewer than 10 percent of all cars stolen in the capital are ever recovered.

Through the first three months of this year police have solved 108 of 1,940 cases of grand theft auto, or 5.6 percent of all cases.

Last year there were 6,264 reported cases of auto theft in the capital, of which the police solved 427, or 6.8 percent.

Tips to prevent auto theft:

1. Always look for official parking lots that have standard security checks and parking tickets.

2. Always ensure that you take standard security steps when leaving your car parked: all doors locked, windows closed and alarm turned on.

3. Check on your car several minutes after you park it because most auto thieves steal cars in the first five minutes after they have been parked.