Kent car strip has relatively few auto thefts

Mike Klesta

The Kent car strip on West Main Street would seem like the prime target for car thieves — row upon row of shiny new and used vehicles — but it could be a lot worse.

Auto thefts happen but not as often as one might think, said Lt. Ray Stein of the Kent Police Department.

“It’s normal course of business,” Stein said. “They sometimes come in spurts.”

An $11,500 Mercury Grand Marquis was reported stolen from Klaben Ford last week, the second time a car was stolen from the car strip area since the beginning of the year, Stein said. According to the Kent Police Department’s 2003 Annual Report, 42 auto thefts were reported in Kent in 2003.

Stein said he couldn’t hazard a guess as to how many of those thefts occur along the Kent car strip, but he knows the auto dealers take quite a few precautions.

Tracy Tucci, advertising director for Klaben Ford, said her dealer might lose one car per year.

“Kent car strip is extremely safe,” she said.

Klaben hires security guards who patrol the premises all night, Klaben has well-lit lots, and it’s the company’s policy to lock cars and remove the keys, Tucci said.

Stein said Don Joseph Toyota, another dealer on the strip, has one gated entrance, making it more difficult for stolen cars to make it off the lot. There’s only one way in and one way out.

Tim Williams, sales manager at Don Joseph Toyota, said he can recall only one theft in the 15 years he’s worked for the dealership. He said they used to keep keys in their demo cars. One night a high school student decided to take one for a joy ride.

Don Joseph no longer keeps keys in the cars, Williams said.

Cars are stolen for a few reasons. Stein said if thieves steal the vehicle for parts, they take care not to damage the vehicle. They often hot-wire the cars.

“If it’s a joy ride thing, they can’t care less,” Stein said.

There have been instances of four to five car thefts in a night, Stein said, but crime rings are pretty rare. It usually happens when “professional thieves” from Akron or Cleveland target Kent.

Stein said recovering stolen vehicles can be pretty difficult. Car lots have a really large inventory, and he’s sure the dealer doesn’t take stock every day. He said it might be a week until the dealer discovers the missing vehicle, and by that time, the thief is long gone.

When a stolen car is reported, authorities enter the vehicle identification number, or VIN, into a nationwide database run through the Bureau of Motor Vehicles, Stein said. Police are notified when a vehicle is discovered.

Car theft is sure to continue, but Stein said his department often has more problems with students.

“We have more problems with students who can’t find their cars because they’re too drunk to find them.”

Contact public affairs reporter Mike Klesta at [email protected].