July 8, 2008

Etched in stone: Program helps to protect vehicles from auto theft

Det. Bobby Bailey of the Sheriff's Combined Auto Theft Task Force etches a vehicle identification number on a car last Thursday. Photo by Greg Little

By GREG LITTLE/publisher@gonzalesinquirer.com
There was a steady stream of cars flowing into the parking lot at Orville Dierlam Insurance Agency in Gonzales last Thursday morning.

"This is a real good turnout," said Det. Bobby Bailey of the Sheriff's Combined Auto Theft Task Force, which serves 17 counties in south central Texas.

The cars were in line so the windows could be etched with vehicle identification numbers. Every window on each car had the number etched onto the glass.

Bailey said the Gonzales County Sheriff's Office joined the task force earlier this year and this is the second time they have conducted the etching program.

The first time, they had 81 cars and there were already more than forty by 10:30 a.m. last Thursday.

"We try to do this every four to six months," said Bailey.

The idea behind the program is to try to stop auto theft.

"This is a theft deterrent," said Bailey.

He said thieves are well aware of the etching program and they look at cars before deciding to steal them. He said many thieves will "walk away" from a vehicle if they see the windows have been etched.

Because the windows are etched, Bailey said thieves cannot sell the cars outright and would have to part them out. The windows, he said, would be unusable to thieves.

"The thieves look for it," he said.

Another benefit of the program is that many insurance companies will give car owners a discount if their vehicle has been etched in the program.

Persons should check with their insurance company to see if they can get a discount.

The etching process is quite simple and fast. Most cars are in and out in around 10 minutes. You simply have to fill out a form stating your name and insurance policy number.

Officials then apply the number on a small piece of paper and treat it with a solution. It sets up in about 15 seconds and is then pulled off. Once complete, the vehicle is ready.

Bailey had high praise for Orville Dierlam's State Farm Insurance agency for allowing the use of the parking lot and also had praise for Sheriff Glen Sachtleben.

"The sheriff is a top-notch guy," said Bailey. "He will do anything he can to help."

Bailey said he is "glad" the task force decided to include Gonzales County in the program.

He said Gonzales County does not have a high rate of auto theft, but it probably does have a high rate of stolen vehicles which pass through the county.

Interstate 10 sees a lot of that traffic, he said. However, he also pointed out that thieves know officials are watching the interstate and sometimes will take other, less traveled roadways.

"We are hoping to stop that," he said.

With the task force in place, officers now have more manpower to patrol some of those roads and find thieves. Bailey also noted that when stolen autos are found, sometimes there are other crimes which are discovered, including illegal drugs and illegal immigrants.

"It can lead to a lot of other things," he said.

Anyone who would like more information about the program can contact the task force at 512-854-9735.

Copyright © 2008 The Gonzales Inquirer. All rights reserved.

Phone:830-672-2861 - E-Mail: news@gonzalesinquirer.com

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