Fort Smith sees rise in vehicle thefts

·3 min read
During the last month, there were 46 motor vehicle thefts.
During the last month, there were 46 motor vehicle thefts.

This article has been updated to add new information from police.

Between Dec. 13 and Wednesday there were 46 motor vehicle thefts, up from 35 during the same time last year, according to the Fort Smith Police Department.

Public Information Officer Aric Mitchell said that there is usually an increase in motor vehicle thefts during the winter months.

Motor vehicle thefts include vehicles, trailers, motorcycles and mopeds. Across the nation, police have seen a rise in motor vehicle thefts.

Also between Dec. 13 and Wednesday, there were 35 instances of breaking or entering into motor vehicles, down from 70 during the same time the year before.

A common way that thieves steal vehicles is when people leave their cars running to warm them up.

“Ideally you ought to be able to go out and warm up your car in a perfect world," Mitchell said. “Definitely be vigilant of where you are in relation to your car at all times, what you're leaving inside of it that sort of thing," Mitchell said.

Ways that people can keep their valuables and their vehicles safe include keeping their cars in the garage.

“Most of these individuals will not bother with it if it looks too difficult," Mitchell said.

People should also keep their cars locked and refrain from leaving valuables in them.

“Cases like this are very seldom do they happen because someone picked the lock or something like that they just go out and they try door handles until they get lucky with one," Mitchell said.

Having security equipment, such as Ring Doorbells, can help police gather evidence in recovering stolen vehicles or property.

“If you’re the victim, the sooner you can contact us the better," Mitchell said.

Usually, police are able to recover stolen vehicles after the criminals dump them. Often people who steal cars are not looking to keep the vehicles but use them to commit additional crimes.

“It’s pretty common to get the car back at some point," Mitchell said.

The police department is taking action to combat the rise in motor vehicle thefts. There are two detectives dedicated to the issue. Officers have also enacted bait-car operations and placed signs around the city warning people to “lock your car, hide your belongings, and take your keys," Mitchell said in an email.

People need comprehensive and collision insurance in order to have a stolen car covered by insurance, said Tip Ramey, who owns Tip’s Neighborhood Auto Insurance. Most people simply have liability insurance, which will cover the cost of the other person's car during an accident. They do not usually have comprehensive and collision insurance.

Comprehensive and collision insurance covers against fire, vandalism, theft and accidents. The price for such insurance varies per person.

“It depends on the vehicle, the person’s driving record," Ramey said.

Comprehensive and collision insurance is more expensive than liability insurance.

“It’s always best to have that because you do recoup something as opposed to nothing at all," Ramey said about comprehensive and collision insurance.

Alex Gladden is a University of Arkansas graduate. She previously reported for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and The Jonesboro Sun before joining the Times Record. She can be contacted at agladden@swtimes.com.

This article originally appeared on Fort Smith Times Record: City sees rise in vehicle thefts

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