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Auto Club, Local Law Enforcement Agencies Fight Car Theft With “Window VIN Etching”

VIN etching

The Automobile Club of Southern California, the CHP-Coastal Division, Santa Maria Police Dept., and National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) teamed today to expand car theft prevention with free vehicle window VIN etching at the Auto Club Santa Maria branch on S. Broadway.  

Window VIN etching consists of stenciling the unique federally-registered 17-digit VIN onto a vehicle’s windshields and windows. The process takes about 6-8 minutes per vehicle.  The stencil lightly marks the top layers of glass, but does not weaken the windows.

“Window VIN etching makes a vehicle less desirable to thieves, because the process makes disassembly at a chop shop more difficult and the parts less able to be resold,” said the Auto Club’s Santa Maria branch Manager Nicole Baker.     

If thieves change the VIN plate number on the front dashboard of a vehicle, then they must change the etched windows that are stenciled with the unique vehicle number which costs money and cuts into their profit.  Un-etched windows do not pose that problem.

Although auto theft is declining nationwide, it remains the number one property crime in America.  And auto theft is increasing locally.  The FBI Uniform Crime Report noted a 2 percent increase in vehicle thefts with 1,240 thefts in Santa Barbara County in 2017.  Santa Maria saw 371 vehicles stolen, according to preliminary crime figures in the Jan. – June 2017 FBI Uniform Crime Report, compared to 224 in 2016.   California was the top state again for auto thefts in 2017, with the theft tally at 175,351, a rate of one vehicle stolen every three minutes and valued by the FBI as a $1.3 billion loss.  The top stolen vehicles were the late 1990s to early 2000s Honda Accord, Honda Civic, and Honda CRV, according to state law enforcement statistics. 

“Although viewed as a property crime, most suspects arrested for vehicle theft are also involved in other criminal activities,” said CHP-Coastal Division Public Information Officer Jordan Richards.   

“Some vehicles are also targeted by car thieves to steal third-row seats in SUVs, airbags, in-car entertainment and factory navigation systems and paperwork to steal identities,” said Richards. 

“The Auto Club is pleased to work with the California Highway Patrol, the Santa Maria Police Department and the National Insurance Crime Bureau to help prevent auto thefts and to help motorists protect their vehicle investment,” said Baker. “For victims, having one’s car stolen, as well as its contents, is costly, upsetting and inconvenient.” 

“Working together, law enforcement and organizations like the Auto Club are able to help educate our community members to better protect themselves from being victimized by car thieves,” said Sgt. Eligio Lara, the Santa Maria Police Dept. Public Information Officer.  

In addition to window VIN etching, drivers received crime prevention tips from the Auto Club, the CHP, the SMPD and NICB to help prevent their cars from being stolen.


For 2016, The Most Stolen Vehicles in the Nation were  (total thefts):

  1. 1997 Honda Accord                   50,427
  2. 1998 Honda Civic                       49,547
  3. 2006 Ford Pickup (Full Size)    32,721
  4. 2004 Chevrolet Pickup (Full)   31,238
  5. 2016 Toyota Camry                    16,732
  6. Nissan Altima                             12,221
  7. Dodge Pick Up (Full Size)        12,128
  8. 2015 Toyota Corolla                  11,989
  9. 2008 Chevrolet Impala                 9,749
  10. Jeep Cherokee-Grand Cherokee 9,245


Source: NICB – Hot Wheels Report


For 2016, California’s Most Stolen Vehicles:

  1. Honda Civic
  2. Honda Accord
  3. Chevrolet Pickup (Full Size)   
  4. Toyota Camry    
  5. Ford Pick Up (Full Size)
  6. Acura Integra
  7. Toyota Corolla
  8. 1999 Honda CR-V
  9. Nissan Sentra
  10. Nissan Altima


Source:  NICB – 2016 Hot Wheels Report


For 2017, Top Three California Theft Targets:

  1. 1998 Honda Civic
  2. 2000 Honda Civic
  3. 1997 Honda Accord  


Source: CHP – 2017 California Vehicle Theft Facts



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The Automobile Club of Southern California is a member club affiliated with the American Automobile Association (AAA) national federation and serves members in the following California counties: Inyo, Imperial, Kern, Los Angeles, Mono, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Tulare, and Ventura.