Thefts from autos may be on the rise

Each week, the crime reports at the Tehama County Sheriff's Office and the Red Bluff Police Department contain thefts from cars, trucks and other vehicles, seemingly small crimes that law enforcement officials say may be on the rise as the economy worsens.

Often the vehicle is unlocked and such items as purses and CDs have been taken; other times the vehicles have been broken into and money, computers and bikes have been stolen.

"People are out there looking for opportunities," Red Bluff Police Chief Scott Capilla. So if an individual walks by a car and sees something of value inside, such as a purse, he or she may succumb to the temptation. If a vehicle is locked but valuables are visible, the individual may resort to breaking a window.

Capilla fears that as the economy tanks, these types of crime may be on the rise.

"Before this economy bounces back, we may see more of this," he said. "A lot of people are out of work right now and facing different circumstances."

The chief is compiling crime statistics for 2008 and expects to release a report to the public at the March 3 City Council meeting. While burglaries are up slightly from the preceding year, Capilla said he is very interested in how this year will affect crime as the full impact of the economic recession is felt.

There is another issue that may also affect the crime rate - a plan to release nonviolent state prisoners.

"It sends the wrong message," Capilla said, giving would-be criminals the sense that they won't face prison time for nonviolent offenses, such as theft.

Given these circumstances, Capilla said residents need to be vigilant about protecting their property and encourages people to keep valuables out of sight and vehicles locked.

Reports of stolen number plates also are on the rise.

"Yes, I've noticed that," said Tehama County Sheriff Clay Parker. He said that he thinks most number plates are taken to obtain the registration sticker. "They don't have time to take them off where the vehicle is," he said. "If they take the whole number plate, they can lay it down flat and get the sticker off."

The registration stickers can then be affixed to their own vehicles, thus saving the cost of registration, which varies with the make and model.

Parker said a minority of the number plates taken are actually put on another vehicle.

If your number plates are stolen, a report must be filed with the appropriate jurisdiction - either the Sheriff's Office or the Police Department - depending on where the theft occurred. That report can then be taken to the Department of Motor Vehicles to receive a new registration sticker or to begin the process of obtaining a new number plate.

Capilla offers this advice for vehicle owners - don't layer the registration stickers on a number plate because it makes them easier to remove. He suggests that after a couple of years' worth of stickers have accumulated, the vehicle owner should remove them and start fresh.

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