Stealing a car is just plain rude. Not only do thieves leave the vehicle’s owner stranded, but they probably make off with a cool CD collection they don’t even appreciate.

This could be your car/Ryn Gargulinski

This could be your car/Ryn Gargulinski

Goodbye, bootleg version of The Doors’ L.A. Woman.

Odds are the rightful owners are not going to get their vehicles back, either.

This year has already seen 629 motor vehicle thefts through the beginning of February, according to Tucson police statistics. Only seven have been recovered.

Last year saw 3,556 vehicles stolen with 12 recoveries, while 2008 had 5,687 thefts with 228 recovered. And that’s only within Tucson city limits.

Even with the high stats for 2008, Tucson car thefts were down from prior years. So were those across the whole state, thanks in part to Arizona’s Bait Car Program.

What a delightful concept.

Now in its seventh year, the program places decoy cars in strategic places. These vehicles are equipped with a GPS tracking device, cameras and audiotapes that go into action when the thief gets behind the wheel and starts the engine.

Dispatchers then work with police to track and stop the thieves.

The program runs on grants from the AATA and vehicles donated by the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB). It boasts a 99 percent conviction rate for thieves that are caught.

Car thefts in Arizona have dropped 40 percent since the program’s inception in 2003, the news release said. Not bad.

To be sure, no Arizona city made the most recent top 10 list of Car Theft Hot Spots, even with our proximity to the border.

Tucson made No. 9 in 2007 and No. 10 in 2006 while Phoenix made No. 4 for both of those years.

The Car Bait Program is helping, but common sense is another major factor for protecting our cars. Don’t leave the vehicle running with the doors unlocked – yes, I see this. Don’t park in dark alleys or leave mounds of money or other valuables in plain view. Get at least one type of deterrent, like an alarm system or disabling device. Know that driving a junker is not necessarily going to exempt you from thievery.

Car parts are sometimes more valuable than the vehicles themselves, especially when they go trekking down to Mexico to get dismembered and sold.

Air bags are hot commodities, with more than 75,000 nabbed every year, according to a Forbes article. While they get about $200 on the black market – yes, the airbag black market – it costs insurance companies and vehicle owners about $1,000 to replace them.

Maybe they should turn to the airbag black market.

Tires, rims and catalytic converters – which often contain precious metals – are other hot items, Forbes said.

No mention of the bootleg L.A. Woman.

Top 10 cars stolen in Arizona

1. 2004 Dodge Ram pickup
2. 1994 Honda Accord
3. 1995 Honda Civic
4. 1997 Ford F-150 Pickup
5. 2003 Ford F-250 Pickup
6. 1994 Nissan Sentra
7. 1990 Toyota Camry
8. 2006 Ford F-350 Pickup
9. 2000 Chevrolet 4×2 Pickup
10. 2004 Chevrolet 4×2 Extended Cab Pickup

Source: NICB

2008 Auto Theft Hot Spots

1. Modesto, Calif.
2. Loredo, Texas
3. Yakima, Wash.
4. San Diego-Carlsbad-San Marcos, Calif.
5. Bakersfield, Calif.
6. Stockton, Calif.
7. Las Vegas-Paradise, Nev.
8. Albuquerque, N.M.
9. San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont, Calif
10. Fresno, Calif.

13. Tucson

Source: NICB

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