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Fighting Car Theft With Window VIN Etching

2013 ACSC Vin Etch Hawaiian shirts

The Automobile Club of Southern California, the Los Angeles Police Dept. (LAPD) West Los Angeles Area (WLA) and National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) teamed up today to expand car theft prevention with free vehicle window Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) etching at the WLA parking lot.   


Window VIN etching consists of stenciling the unique federally-registered 17-digit VIN onto a vehicle’s front and rear windshields and windows. The etching process takes about 6-8 minutes per vehicle to complete.  The stencil only sinks into the top layers of glass marking the windows lightly, but does not weaken the windows. The VIN letters and numbers were etched onto car owners’ windshields, windows and sunroofs.


The vehicle becomes less desirable to thieves because if they try to change the VIN plate number on the front dashboard of a vehicle, then they must also change the windows that are etched with the unique vehicle number.  This extra step costs money and cuts into their profit.  Un-etched windows do not pose that problem for thieves.


“Window VIN etching makes the vehicle far less desirable to thieves, much more difficult to be disassembled by car thieves and the parts resold for more than the value of the car,” said Auto Club Santa Monica Branch Manager Michelle Gonsalves.  We’re happy to partner with the LAPD to reduce numbers of what is often a traumatic crime for motorists.”  


In addition to car thefts, some vehicles’ components like third-row seats in SUVs and side mirrors are targeted by car thieves, along with airbags, entertainment and factory navigation systems, Gonsalves added.


“Although viewed as a property crime, most suspects arrested for vehicle theft are also involved in a myriad of other criminal activities,” said Barone. 


In addition to window VIN etching, drivers received tips from the Auto Club, the LAPD, WLA Division and NICB to help prevent their vehicles from being stolen or burglarized.


For 2013, The Most Stolen Vehicles in the Nation were  (total thefts in parentheses):

 1. Honda Accord (53,995)

 2. Honda Civic (45,001)

 3. Chevrolet Pickup Full Size (27,809)

 4. Ford Pickup Full Size (26,494)

 5. Toyota Camry (14,420)

 6. Dodge Pickup Full Size (11,347)

 7. Dodge Caravan (10,911)

 8. Jeep Cherokee/Grand Cherokee (9,272)

 9. Toyota Corolla (9,010)

10. Nissan Altima (8,892)


Source: National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) – 2013 Hot Wheels Report

For 2013, California’s Most Stolen Vehicles:

1.  1996 Honda Accord

2 .   1998 Honda Civic                                                                                            

3.   2004 Chevrolet Pick Up (Full Size)                                                              

4.   1991 Toyota Camry                                                                                         

5.   1994 Acura Integra

6.   2006 Ford Pick Up (Full Size)

7.   1995 Toyota Corolla

7.   1994 Nissan Sentra

8.   1997 Nissan Altima

9.   1988 Toyota Pick Up 4x2


Source:  NICB – 2013 Hot Wheels Report


For 2013, Top Three Theft Targets:

1.  1996 Honda Accord

2 .  1994 Honda Accord                                                                                         

3.  1997 Honda Accord


Source: 2013 California Vehicle Theft Facts


Vehicle theft remains the number one ongoing property crime in America.  In 2013, the vehicle theft tally in California was 171,036, valued by the FBI as a $1 billion loss.  The West Los Angeles area experienced a little more than an 11 percent increase in vehicle thefts from 2013 to 2014, according to LAPD crime statistics. Top stolen vehicles were 1990s Honda Accords, Honda Civics, Toyota Camrys and 2000s Toyota Corollas, according to WLA, Officer Mike Barone.   


“The WLA Division has always taken an aggressive stand against auto theft.  We are happy to partner with the Auto Club, and NICB and our other partner law enforcement agencies to help combat theft through creative ideas like ‘VIN etching,’” said Barone.   

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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.