October Marks 25 Years Of Maryland’s Vehicle Theft Prevention Council: How the Crimes Have Changed

News Release, Maryland State Police

(Pikesville, MD) – October marks the 25th anniversary of the Maryland Vehicle Theft Prevention Council, a strategy that has proven to be highly successful in reducing vehicle theft rates while recognizing how the crime has changed.

Created in 1994 by the Maryland General Assembly, the Vehicle Theft Prevention Council embraced a statewide strategy directed at public awareness, vehicle theft by juveniles, law enforcement, and prosecution through a grant award process. Since its inception, overall vehicle theft rates in Maryland have been reduced by over 68% for an estimated economic savings of over $200 million.

“Vehicle theft has come a long way from the days of teenagers stealing vehicles simply for the cheap thrill,” says Christopher McDonold, Executive Director of the Maryland Vehicle Theft Prevention Council. “Although the numbers indicate an overall decline in an auto theft, the crime has advanced beyond traditional methods into a crime of opportunity.”

The stolen vehicle is commonly a precursor to other violent crimes; for instance, criminals do not rob banks, engage in shootings or terrorism in their own car.  The theft of a vehicle is usually the first act in a string of violent crimes.

Other related crimes run the gamut from juvenile crime sprees to identity theft or home burglary because mail or credit cards or a garage opener was left in the car. In other cases, organized crime groups filling orders on the black market quickly export high-end cars to other countries.

Today, there are many reasons why vehicles are stolen.  One of the most common reasons for vehicle theft is the ability to generate profit from organized vehicle theft activities. Stolen vehicles are profitable, either intact or parted out.

Global auto theft is also flourishing.  International auto theft rings are prevalent and typically include a professional, almost businesslike setup with people managing the different aspects of the setup.  They wreak havoc by stealing vehicles and illegally exporting them out of the country.

In order for these illegal vehicle sales to be successful, other increasing trends are typically part of the thieves’ process.  They include title fraud, vehicle cloning and internet sales of stolen vehicles. A legal vehicle is considered “cloned” if its identity is stolen and then used for a stolen vehicle in order to make the stolen vehicle appear to be legal. The stolen vehicle can then be registered and sold. Many cloned vehicles are transported long distances across the United States from the location where they were originally stolen from.  Internet sales provide an easy method for illegal sales of vehicles.

These types of crimes affect the public as well as law enforcement.  As the stolen vehicle arena continues to grow professionally, it takes more resources to combat illegal activities.

Today, auto theft investigators and law enforcement officers are tasked with solving a growing list of vehicle-related crimes. Additionally, new technology and resources are needed to remain equipped to stay current on new crime trends. Therefore, it makes sense to broaden the definition of our work to explain the modern-day reality of our crime prevention efforts.

For instance, the emerging threat of motor vehicle cybersecurity requires new skills and training for investigators. The Vehicle Theft Prevention Council provides ongoing training to law enforcement to identify, prepare, and train our resources to combat this and other highly technical, emerging threats to vehicles, people, and property.

Citizens need to be more vigilant than ever before in order to protect themselves and their property. In most circumstances, thefts occur either in residential areas in the late evening and early morning hours or in commercial areas in the midday hours.  A vehicle theft occurs, on average, every 39 minutes in Maryland. In approximately 50% of the vehicles stolen, keys were left inside and 60% of the vehicles stolen were not locked. Every citizen must continue to practice good crime prevention and remember to:

  • Lock your Car
  • Take your Keys or Key Fobs
  • Hide your valuables

Between the years 1983 to 1994, vehicle theft in Maryland increased by 143%. In 1994, Maryland ranked 12th in the nation in total vehicle thefts and 5th per capita (thefts per 100,000 population). In 2017, Maryland ranked 17th in the nation in total vehicle thefts and 27th per capita (thefts per 100,000 population).

The Vehicle Theft Prevention Council continues to have a robust public awareness campaign via social media, a PSA contest with local colleges and universities and a media campaign with local news outlets.  Through grant awards, the Council also supports programs intended to reduce motor vehicle theft, improve administration of motor vehicle theft laws, improve or create programs to eliminate vehicle theft by juveniles, enhance vehicle theft prosecutorial efforts, inform motor vehicle owners of the financial and social costs of vehicle theft, and teach methods of motor vehicle theft prevention.

The Vehicle Theft Prevention Council acknowledges all council members, grantees, VTPC staff and the citizens of Maryland for making this a great 25 years. For more information about how to protect yourself from being a victim of auto theft, visit  Maryland Vehicle Theft Prevention Council.

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