The Olympia Police Department is giving away free anti-theft devices for people who drive early model Honda and Toyota vehicles that a popular targets for car thieves.
The department will offer The Club at the front desk of police headquarters, located at City Hall, 601 Fourth Ave. E. The front desk is open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday, although the department can work with people who can’t make it during those times.
The device consists of a long bar that fits across the steering wheel and makes it almost impossible to turn the vehicle. The police department’s giveaway is made possible with a grant from the Washington Auto Theft Prevention Authority.
Once the initial shipment of 100 units runs out, the department will continue to make The Club available to the public at cost — around $14.
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Police Department senior program specialist Amy Stull said the Club giveaway is intended for previous victims of auto theft as well as owners of pre-2001 Hondas and Toyotas.
“Those types of vehicles are easier to steal because the keys are easy to alter,” said Stull, noting a common practice of “shaving” keys to make a skeleton key that can start those cars. Anyone with questions can call Stull at 360-753-8049 or email email@example.com.
Jim Garrard and Dorene McMillan showed up Friday to get their free Clubs from the police department, which had given away about 20 of the devices by noon.
“I don’t have full (auto insurance) coverage, so this is my coverage,” McMillan said. “This is awesome. It’ll save my car from getting stolen.”
In 2016, there were 222 auto thefts in Olympia. About one-third of those cases happened in the southwest part of the city because of the high concentration of vehicles at Capital Mall and several apartment buildings, according to Officer George Clark.
The department also has given the devices to people who live in the vehicles in downtown Olympia, Clark said. He described one such case of a woman whose car was repeatedly stolen until she finally started using a Club.
Clark said he has encountered suspects who regularly prowl vehicles for valuables at night, often using a shaved key to enter the vehicle and start the ignition. Thieves will sometimes take a vehicle and drive it a few blocks away, where they steal items inside, then leave the vehicle behind.
“This is not easy to defeat,” Clark said of The Club, noting that the device’s key has a lot of “teeth,” making the lock hard to pick. “It can certainly stop a vehicle from being taken.”
The Washington Auto Theft Prevention Authority reports that vehicles are commonly stolen to sell the vehicle or its parts; to use the vehicle for transportation or joyriding; or to use the vehicle to commit other crimes.
The Washington State Patrol reports that more vehicles are stolen on Mondays, Tuesdays or Wednesdays, and that an average of 65 cars are stolen every day in the state.
According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau, the most commonly stolen vehicles in Washington as of 2015 are (in order):
▪ 1996 Honda Accord
▪ 1998 Honda Civic
▪ 2004 Ford full-size pickup
▪ 1994 Acura Integra
▪ 1989 Toyota Camry
▪ 1996 Subaru Legacy
▪ 1999 Chevrolet full-size pickup
▪ 1994 Jeep Cherokee and Grand Cherokee
▪ 2010 Toyota Corolla
▪ 1997 Nissan Sentra