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Auto thefts declining in Md., statistics show

THE BALTIMORE SUN

A portrait of the state's typical car theft victim: you live in the more urbanized counties of Central Maryland, you drive a Honda Accord or an Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme or an Acura Legend, and you have a bad habit of leaving your car unlocked.

About 80 percent of all vehicle thefts in the state involve cars with unlocked doors and about 20 percent of car theft victims leave their keys somewhere inside, according to statistics released yesterday by the state Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services.

The good news is that chances are you'll get the car back: In Maryland, 72 percent of all stolen vehicles are recovered. The statistics released yesterday were compiled by the Maryland Vehicle Theft Prevention Council as part of a campaign to reduce such thefts by showing how easily they can be avoided by taking simple precautions.

"It is not unusual to have the engine running," said Leonard A. Sipes Jr., a spokesman for the public safety department, which is assisting in the campaign. "If we can simply convince citizens to lock doors and take their keys with them, we know we can significantly reduce rates of auto theft."

After years of steady increase, signs show that auto theft is on the decline. During the first three months of this year, car thefts in Maryland fell by 13 percent.

Auto thefts increased in Maryland by 13 percent from 1993 to 1994. In the decade between 1983 and 1994, they increased by 143 percent, while nationally car thefts increased by only 55 percent during the same period.

The most popular model for car thieves was the Honda Accord, according a list compiled from eight counties between January 1994 and March 1995. The next models, in order of frequency of theft, were the Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme, the Acura Legend, Jeep Cherokee, Toyota Corolla, Ford Escort, Toyota Camry, Chevrolet Cavalier, Nissan Maxima and the Honda Civic.

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