Car thefts and break-ins are some of the top crimes in Hawaii, turning thousands of people every year into victims.
According to the Honolulu Police Department’s CrimeMapping feature, just in the last week, there were more than 100 cases of vehicles being broken into or stolen on Oahu, and most of them were in town.
This is part one of our two-part series looking at the vehicles stolen the most in Hawaii, and how you can protect yourself and your family from becoming victims.
Honolulu police say last year, 2,877 vehicles were stolen on Oahu. Thieves tried to steal another 456 vehicles, but didn’t get away with them.
It’s a lot, but at least it’s down from years past.
Wendell Takata is a retired HPD officer and worked as a detective for the auto theft detail. He is now president of Western States Auto Theft Investigators Association – Hawaii Chapter.
“Back in 2006, it was over 8,000 cars a year that were stolen on Oahu alone,” Takata said.
“If you find out that your car was just stolen, call 911 immediately and what the officers tend to do is send another officer to your home, if you’re reporting it away from the scene, to make sure your residence is okay,” he added.
As for what types of vehicles are being stolen, the top stolen vehicles in Hawaii compared to the nation are:
That’s according to the latest numbers from the National Insurance Crime Bureau. Most of them are older vehicles.
There are a lot of similarities as far as makes and models of the vehicles targeted by thieves. So why are older Accords and Civics at the top?
Takata says it’s “because they have less anti-theft deterrent systems, and it’s a favorite for a lot of thieves because it’s easy to get into and start.”
Not to mention, they’re among the most popular cars in Hawaii and on the mainland. HPD tells us, parts for certain vehicles may also be in higher demand.
“It depends on the individual. A lot of the thieves have favorites,” Takata said. “Work trucks and commercial vehicles have been a favorite for some of these thieves, because of the tools and equipment they have inside.”
Thanks to advances in technology, it’s harder for crooks to steal cars these days.
“One of the most common ones these days is within the key, there’s a microchip inside of here, and if this key is not present at the time of the car being started, the car will either not start or immediately shut off, so the days of hotwiring are over now,” said Jon Wenger from Subaru of Hawaii.
Wenger adds that many cars now have a “find my car” type of feature, “so what auto manufacturers are doing is adding a cellular device inside of a car, so it’s implanted in the car and thieves can’t find it, but they’re able to track the vehicle if it’s stolen.”
Of the 2,877 vehicles stolen last year, HPD tells us 2,173 were recovered. That’s a 75 percent recovery rate — better than the mainland — thanks to the fact that we’re an island state.
Some stolen vehicles are used to commit other crimes. Others are simply used as transportation, and others are stripped.
“Even some newer cars are ending up in (chop) shops,” Takata said.
Despite the amount of vehicles stolen, only 130 suspects were charged with driving a stolen vehicle last year. It’s a class C felony punishable by up to five years in prison.
“It’s difficult to prosecute,” said Honolulu prosecuting attorney Keith Kaneshiro, “and the reason why it’s difficult is if someone steals a car and someone says another person authorized the person to take the car, it’s difficult for us to prove the intent and knowledge it was stolen.
“Even when they’re convicted, they’re not really sentenced to prison. They give them probation. We have multiple auto theft defendants who are convicted but are on probation,” Kaneshiro added.
When asked what could be done to bring down auto thefts, Kaneshiro said “mandatory sentences. You put these guys who are stealing vehicles in prison, and you keep them in prison.”
What can you do to prevent your car from being stolen?
“Don’t leave the keys in the car for one,” Takata advised. “Park in a well-lighted area. If you have an alarm system, use the alarm system, even if you’re gone for a minute or so.”
This applies even when your car is parked in your open garage or driveway.
“People have a false sense of security when they’re at home,” Takata said. “They tend to leave it unlocked, or even leave the keys in the ignition while at home.”
HPD says in 603 of the auto theft cases from last year, a key was used to drive away the vehicle, and 97 of the keys were stolen from lock boxes.
Bottom line: Make sure you do what you can to minimize the opportunity for thieves.
In Part 2, we’ll look into car break-ins — where they’re happening the most and how many happened last year. It’s an even bigger problem than cars being stolen.
Tips from the Honolulu Police Department:
Secure your keys. Don’t leave your key in the ignition, or with the engine running — not even for a moment or even if you’re near your vehicle. Always assume someone is watching, especially if you think you can hide your key.
Secure your vehicle. Lock your doors and close your windows.
Secure your property. Remove any property from inside the vehicle if possible. Even an empty bag, package, or something that has little value could invite a thief to break into your vehicle to find out if there is anything inside of that empty container. If you must leave property inside your trunk or other area of your vehicle, make sure you do so away from where you eventually park.
Consider additional layers of protection. You can install audible and visible devices, like alarms and locking devices. There are also ways to help immobilize your vehicle, such as smart keys or devices that interrupt unauthorized starting, even if someone was to get a hold of your key. There are also commercially available anti-theft systems and tracking systems.
Honolulu Police Department statistics
Number of UEMV incidents between 01/01/2011 and 11/01/2016
Wahiawa, N. Shore
*2016 data only available up to November 1, 2016
Honda vehicles stolen in 2016
- Ford: 298
- Toyota Tacoma: 131
- Nissan/Datsun (2): 114
- Jeep: 104
- Chevrolet/GMC: 97
- Suzuki: 87
- Honda: 84
- Yamaha: 64
- Kawasaki: 61
- Harley Davidson: 24
- KTM: 9
- Other: 27