Car Burglaries Have Sheriff Looking At Special Tactics

By Guy Leonard, County Times

LEONARDTOWN, Md. (May 29, 2008)—According to Sheriff Timothy K. Cameron, burglaries involving motor vehicles are a growing concern; so much so that his office will stake out special vehicles with items that attract potential burglars to help catch them in the act.

“My intention is to put out bait cars with GPS (global positioning systems) and satellite radios in them,” Cameron told The County Times. “Those are the kinds of things they are taking…they’re stealing anything of value left in the cars.”

Cameron said the rise in car burglaries was detected using the sheriff’s office’s new computer-based crime tracking system. “It’s not a big rise, but it is a trend we detected using compstat (computer statistics),” Cameron said.

Cameron warned vehicle owners that burglars were simply browsing around looking to find whatever mark was the easiest to take down.

High-priced electronics seemed to be the favored targets, Cameron said, including cell phones.

Det. David Alexander, the investigator in charge of coordinating anti-theft efforts in the county, said precious metal thefts were still a pressing concern.

These thefts consisted mostly of copper piping and wire stolen from abandoned structures, new and old homes as well as from vehicles used in construction and contracting trades.

“There are a lot of business vehicles out there with precious metals on board,” Alexander told The County Times. “They [vehicle owners] should find a way to secure them.

“They make easy targets.”

The costs of precious metals used for industrial applications and elsewhere has risen in recent years worldwide, due in part to building booms in China, India and the war in Iraq, and precious metal thefts have seen a subsequent rise.

“Precious metal prices are the highest they’ve been in history,” Alexander said, adding that thieves could make a quick turnaround on their stolen materials. “And it’s easy to get rid of.”

Cameron said several arrests last year that resulted in the break up of an alleged catalytic converter theft ring highlighted the illegal demand for precious metals.

Rhodium, palladium and platinum were all precious metals used in catalytic converters installed on vehicles, Cameron said.

Rhodium has a current value of about $9,800 per troy ounce, while platinum costs about $2,200 per ounce. Palladium has a market value of about $460 per ounce according to the precious metals Web site

While some scrap metal dealers keep track of who sells them precious metals, some still do not, Cameron said, making it more difficult to track down possible suspects in precious metal thefts.

A measure that Maryland sheriffs lobbied for in this year’s legislative session in Annapolis that would have required scrap metal dealers to keep detailed records of sales transactions failed, Cameron said.

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