Auto theft decreasing despite national ranking

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - Drivers beware!  Thieves are out to snatch your car. A recent report by the National Insurance Crime Bureau shows the River Region is 80th out of 366 American cities for vehicle theft in 2010.

Montgomery Police say July is typically the busiest month for car theft. Montgomery and it's surrounding cities combined for 1,040 stolen cars in 2010.

"As far as property crimes go, it's one of the most serious offenses," says Corporal David Wizorek, an investigator with the Montgomery Police Department.

Despite its ranking in the top third of the NICB report on stolen cars, Wizorek says car theft in the capital city is actually decreasing.

In 2009, 736 cars were stolen in Montgomery.

In 2010, 586.

In Wetumpka, 12 were stolen in 2009 and seven in 2010.

"We do have auto theft rings and we've broken up several of those rings which have caused our numbers to come down," adds Wizorek.

Prattville police saw an increase from 47 to 66 stolen cars.

But Wizorek believes this year will be more encouraging. So far in Montgomery, only 220 vehicles have been stolen.

"We're on pace to have a really good year," he adds.

Police say one of the most common ways for thieves to steal your car is when you go outside and turn it on just to let it heat up or cool off. The problem, they say, is when you walk away the keys are still in the ignition.

"The best thing if you're going to start it--you should be with your vehicle. You should be in control of your vehicle at all times."

One Montgomery visitor has her own way of keeping predators away.

"I have an alarm system and I also have the club that I lock on the steering wheel so even if they can get in and get in the car...they cannot drive the car," says Florida resident, Deborah Hefner.

"I lock it and check the doors to make sure that I've locked it," says Montgomery resident, Bob Schultz.

"I don't leave it running when I get out to go into a store. I always lock my doors," says Tennessee resident, Kelli Grice.

Other Alabama cities were also listed in the report.

Mobile: 24

Gadsden: 95

Birmingham: 51

Anniston-Oxford: 125

Huntsville: 145

Tuscaloosa: 152

Decatur: 170

Florence-Muscle Shoals: 220

Dothan: 237

Auburn-Opelika: 268

Copyright 2011 WSFA. All rights reserved.