With automobile thefts reportedly on the rise, Farmington Hills Police Chief Jeff King recently shared tips for residents. One tip for residents is to make sure that their vehicles are locked.

With automobile thefts reportedly on the rise, Farmington Hills Police Chief Jeff King recently shared tips for residents. One tip for residents is to make sure that their vehicles are locked.

File photo by Patricia O’Blenes

Farmington Hills police offer tips amid rising vehicle thefts

By: Mark Vest | Farmington Press | Published November 20, 2023


FARMINGTON HILLS — After having 53 auto thefts reported in 2020, the Farmington Hills Police Department saw a big jump the following year.

“In 2021 is where we really saw a significant increase in thefts — went up to 91 for the year,” said Farmington Hills Police Chief Jeff King. “In ‘22 it rose to 132, and then in ‘23, as of Oct. 16, which if it continues at that pace … it would be 139 for the year.”

King said there are a multitude of factors for the increase in automobile thefts.

He said community awareness crime prevention programs were affected by the pandemic. However, there is another reason that is likely playing an even bigger role.

“Because of the key fobs,” King said. “They transitioned from being able to try to capture that signal from that key fob, and they basically harness that signal that a key fob sends to the registered car. They steal that, they recreate it, and then they get into that vehicle at a later time. That has significantly increased some of the car thefts, specifically.”

According to a report by the National Insurance Crime Bureau, vehicle thefts have been on the rise in the United States.

The NICB is the insurance industry’s not-for-profit association dedicated to predicting, preventing and prosecuting insurance crime, according to the release.

The release states that nearly 500,000 vehicles were reported stolen nationwide in the first half of 2023, which is an increase of more than 2% from the first half of last year.

“Vehicle thefts increased to near-record highs in the United States last year, and unfortunately, current trends indicate total thefts this year may surpass 2022,” NICB President and CEO David J. Glawe stated in the release. “With little deterrent to stop these criminal actors, law enforcement agencies and communities will continue to suffer.”

Measures that residents can take to help protect their vehicles include attaining steering column locks and AirTag tracking devices.

“First and foremost, with any kind of crime, be situationally aware, wherever you are, whether it’s at home, work, out shopping or at a restaurant,” King said. “If you had to choose between, say, a dark-lit parking area or a well-lit parking area that’s really frequented, you’d want to choose the well-lit parking area. … One of the things we tell people, if you feel something suspicious, call 911. If you hear a car alarm, if you see somebody looking into cars and you see somebody walking through a parking lot – their behavior seems like it could be suspicious or criminal — call us.”

King also suggests never leaving key fobs in vehicles, utilizing factory alarms, and if it is an option, parking in a lot that is monitored by a closed-circuit television system.

He said that “hotter, faster” vehicles are being targeted throughout metro Detroit.

Sometimes thieves target specific parts of vehicles.

“There’s a higher level of proficiency there, where they have the tools to shatter windows and access cars or to jack cars up and readily remove parts of the cars, things like that,” King said. “If they’re coming out targeting like, for instance, airbags out of a Chevy Impala, we’ll find they’ll go into (an) apartment complex or a target-rich environment, shopping mall, whatever, and they’ll get the airbags out of those cars.”

Glawe offered some strategies that can help residents avoid being a victim.

“There are several proactive and commonsense steps consumers can take to help deter vehicle theft, including the most important, which is never leave your keys or key fob in the car,” he stated. “Always lock the doors and roll up your windows, and never leave valuables in plain sight; instead place them in your trunk or out of sight.”

One simple action could help prevent some automobile thefts, as well as having items stolen from inside vehicles.

“People are leaving their cars unlocked,” King said. “They’re getting in and they’re stealing … like change, car chargers, any kind of clothing bags. But we also see people are leaving their legally owned firearms in their car. … Probably the vast majority … of our larceny from autos are from unlocked, unsecured vehicles – windows down, doors unlocked.”

In the event that a vehicle is stolen, one of the tools at the FHPD’s disposal is automated license plate recognition technology, known as Flock.

King said that it is helping to identify “bad actors” who are in stolen cars.

“On the investigative side, when we do have, say a rash of larceny from autos in a certain complex or a certain area of our city, we can utilize those Flock cameras and say, ‘We’re looking for a blue Dodge Durango,’ and we type in there, and our network of (cameras) will search for any blue Dodge Durango and give us those vehicle identifiers — the plate,” he said. “It has nothing to do with the person or facial recognition inside the car, it’s just the vehicle and the license plate.”

From King’s perspective, the FHPD is fortunate to have to have adequate staffing to deal with crimes such as stolen vehicles.

“Our focus is prevention, but when it comes time, we are fully capable of not only investigating, but arresting and prosecuting these individuals,” he said.