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Car theft has plummeted in Pennsylvania in the past 20 years

Written by Ben Allen and Radio Pennsylvania | Aug 22, 2014 4:00 AM

(Harrisburg) -- Auto theft in Pennsylvania has plummeted in the past 20 years, according to data from the state Auto Theft Prevention Authority.

Twenty years ago, 52,306 cars and car parts were stolen in the Commonwealth. But by last year, that number fell to 14,414.

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Steven Wheeler, director of the Pennsylvania Auto Theft Prevention Authority, points to grants that enable law enforcement agencies like the Lancaster City Police to employ two full-time investigators.

"Whether that's a state trooper that works under a grant we've given to the State Police, or a local law enforcement officer that's partnering with the State Police, or whether it's the countywide program like they have in Lehigh County or Delware County."

Wheeler also says getting "VIN etching" on windows and the windshield of a car can also convince a thief looking for a score to keep moving.

"If I want to steal that car now, I'm gonna have to replace every piece of auto glass on it in order to get rid of that VIN number, and that's an expensive proposition. So the guy moves on to something else."

Philadelphia County is the epicenter of auto thefts in the state by far, but both Lancaster and York counties rank in the top 10 in the state.

Still, the theft rate per 100,000 people in Pennsylvania is lower than Maryland, Delaware, and New Jersey.

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