TULSA'S stolen car stats are going down, but Police say they are still too high

Wednesday, November 7th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

Tulsa auto theft detectives are up to their elbows in a chop shop investigation. Officers found the operation while chasing down stolen cars. And now they've got to match dozens of car parts to cars that have been stolen. News on Six crime reporter Lori Fullbright explains why chop shops are such big business.

Somebody steals a car in the US every 23 seconds, many of them end up in graveyards like this, columns popped, windows busted and pieces missing. Sgt Jeff Cealka, Tulsa Police: "It's profit motive. In a short amount of time, they can take a nice car and chop it up and put a nice chunk of change in their pocket."

Car thieves stole more than 3,700 cars and trucks in Tulsa last year. Detectives recovered 70% of them, the rest simply disappeared. Chevy trucks and Olds Cutlasses are the cars of choice right now, chopping them up is easy money. "The doors, could get 2 or 3 times as much, especially if in good shape and the paint is good, 2-3-4 times what they would've been worth otherwise."

Tulsa detectives uncover 3 or 4 chop shops a year, once they do, it's often a maze of altered VIN numbers and a puzzle of matching stolen parts with stolen cars. 300 cars a year in Tulsa could be saved if only the owners would do one simple little thing. "If people would take the keys out of their cars, we'd drop the car theft rate by 10%. We're coming up on the cold season where people will run in to get a cup of coffee or pay for the gas and leave their car running. Don't do it."

The vast majority of car thieves are white, teenage boys, the average price of the cars they steal, $6,000. Police say sometimes thieves sometimes spend days chopping up cars, pulling the parts they want over days. But, thieves can strip a car in less than 8 minutes flat and that's using only hand tools, leaving behind nothing but, an empty shell.

Tulsa’s auto theft rate has dropped the last four years in a row. Nationally, the three most often stolen vehicles are Honda Accords, Toyota Camry’s and Chevy pick-ups.