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Syracuse police still dealing with increasing car thefts


Police agencies across central New York continue to deal with a rash of car thefts of mostly Kia and Hyundai models, because of a software glitch.

Syracuse Police Chief Joe Cecile reported Thursday that 994 vehicles have been stolen through mid-November of this year. If you add vehicles stolen in Onondaga County, that number jumps to almost 1,455.

The biggest problem continues to be the ease with which a thief can shatter a window of a Kia or Hyundai, and use a USB stick to start the engine. Cecile said police can’t stop it, so vehicle owners must exercise crime prevention. That includes software upgrades available from dealerships.

More than that, Cecile also encourages owners of these brands to get a steering wheel locking device, like "The Club."

"The person stealing it has no idea whether you've got the upgrade or not. So they're going to smash your window and they're going to go in there," said Cecile. "And now you have the upgrade, so they can't steal your vehicle but you just got your window broken anyway. If The Club is clearly visible showing that even if they're able to use the USB they're not going to be able to use the steering wheel. It's going to cut down on that type of thing. You're probably not going to get your window broken."

Cecile said unless drivers take precautions, this is an issue that’s never going to be solved by law enforcement.

"It takes seconds to break into a car and steal it, especially the vehicles that are being stolen most prevalently," Cecile said. "It's going to take the citizens, the owners of the vehicles, to exercise some crime prevention, whether it's The Club inside the vehicle that prevents them from steering the vehicle, or from going down and getting the upgrade, which will prevent them from getting in your vehicle and stealing those specific vehicles within seconds.”

Cecile said the city has joined with state police and the county sheriff's department to put special patrols on the street looking for stolen vehicles, but most of the time they are found abandoned. There have been only 202 arrests for stolen cars so far this year.

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.