Friday, January 22, 2010
Valley auto thefts down by nearly 40%
County Attorney Andrew Thomas announced today that the Valley’s auto theft rate fell by 38.5% for the first half of 2009. According to preliminary numbers just released from the FBI, during the first six months of 2009 there were 7492 reported vehicle thefts. Between January and June of 2008, 12,190 vehicle thefts were reported in the Valley. The decrease is also reflected in the number of cases submitted to our office last year by Valley law enforcement. In 2008, 2690 cases were submitted. That number was 1561 in 2009, a 42% drop.
The decrease, while impressive, is not surprising. For several years prosecutors at the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office and Valley police agencies have made it a priority to reduce what was an escalating auto theft rate. In 2006, Thomas added an Auto Theft Bureau to the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office. Since then, more than 4700 defendants have been prosecuted with a conviction rate averaging 95.5%.
Repeat Offender programs have also contributed to the decline. As part of its comprehensive strategy to reduce crime, the MCAO implemented a repeat offender policy in 2006 that requires most defendants with a prior felony conviction to go to prison instead of probation. Defendants charged with auto theft that have one historical prior felony conviction now must have in their plea agreement a term in prison.
Illegal immigration enforcement has also played a major role. The Center for Immigration Studies in July of 2009 estimated that the illegal immigrant population in Arizona declined by more than 30% since January 17, 2007. Auto theft numbers reflect the decline. In 2007 13% of those sentenced for vehicle theft were in the country illegally. In 2008 that number fell to 9%.
Thomas stated, “Going after auto thieves with a targeted prosecution effort has helped produce a historic drop in auto theft rates in the Valley. The crackdown on illegal immigration has hastened this trend. In these stressful economic times the loss of the family car is more than an annoyance; it’s a significant hardship.”
Posted by Rachel Alexander at Friday, January 22, 2010