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Commerce Department teams up with local law enforcement to prevent auto theft

March 13, 2012

For Immediate Release

ST. PAUL, MN – An average of 23 cars are stolen every day in Minnesota – that’s almost one car every hour. Nearly 8,400 vehicles were stolen in Minnesota in 2010 alone, totaling more than $21.3 million in stolen value. But thanks in part to a successful partnership between the Minnesota Department of Commerce and local law enforcement agencies, incidents of auto theft have declined significantly over the last seven years.

Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman announced the continuation of Minnesota’s successful Auto Theft Prevention Grant Program today, awarding 21 local county attorneys, and community organizations with more than $3.8 million to be used exclusively for local programs that aid in:

  1. Identification of critical law enforcement issues

  2. Auto theft education for law enforcement officers and citizens

  3. Investigation and prosecution of auto theft suspects

  4. Collaboration between law enforcement agencies

  5. Prevention of auto thefts which result in lower auto insurance premiums

“Every year, auto theft impacts the lives and finances of thousands of Minnesotans, and steals from wallets of every consumer in the form of higher insurance premiums,” said Commissioner Rothman. “That’s why Minnesota’s Auto Theft Prevention Grant Program is so important.

“Advancements in auto security features on new vehicles are critically important, and have helped reduce auto theft over time,” Rothman said. “But the most important defenses we have against auto theft are the knowledge, prevention, and partnerships that are made possible, in part, by this proven program.”

Local law enforcement agencies receiving Auto Theft Prevention Grants this year include:



Anti-Vehicle Crime Association of Minnesota (AVCAM)


Bemidji Police Department


Bloomington Police Department


Brooklyn Center Police Department


Anoka County Joint Law Enforcement Council


Crime Stoppers of Minnesota


District 2 Community Council


Duluth Police Department


Hennepin County Attorney


Hennepin County Sheriff


Mille Lacs County Sheriff


Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA)


International Association of Special Investigation Units


Minnesota State Patrol


Minneapolis Police Department


Olmsted County Sheriff


Ramsey County Attorney


Roseville Police Department


St. Paul Police Department


Washington County Sheriff


Washington/Anoka County Attorney



Programs supported by Minnesota’s Auto Theft Prevention Grant Program include: jail interviews of known suspects and associates that yield a high rate of recovery and charges; mobile and stationary license plate readers that allow law enforcement to fight auto theft without hiring additional officers; and more.

Law enforcement officers like Mille Lacs County Sheriff Brent Lindgren argue that funding to support these initiatives is critically important in curbing auto theft rates in Minnesota. This year, the Mille Lacs County Sheriff’s Office received an auto theft prevention grant from the Commerce Department to purchase a bait car and two license plate readers.

“The cutting edge license plate recognition technology this grant will support allows our officers to apprehend suspects while they are still in the stolen vehicle,” said Sheriff Lindgren. “These tools will lead to measurable arrests and help our law enforcement officers circumvent criminal activity in Mille Lacs County.”

These efforts, and similar efforts funded statewide by the program, have helped reduce the frequency of auto theft in Minnesota. According to the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension’s (BCA) Uniform Crime Report, auto theft in Minnesota has declined by more than 37 percent since 2004. That year, more than 13,410 vehicles were stolen totaling nearly $52.6 million stolen value. In 2010, 8,398 vehicles were stolen totaling $21.3 million in stolen value.

Commissioner Rothman warns that although auto theft appears to be declining in Minnesota, consumers should remain alert to the threat of auto theft, and take necessary precautions to avoid becoming a car thief’s next victim.

“There are simple things every Minnesota consumer can do to keep car thieves out of their driver’s seat,” Rothman said. “Knowledgeable, careful consumers are a car thief’s worst enemy. We all have a role to play in preventing auto theft in Minnesota.”


Tips to Avoid Losing Your Vehicle to Auto Theft


Urban Communities at Higher Risk – Residents of urban communities and neighborhoods should have a heightened awareness of auto theft and work to actively protect their vehicles from car thieves. According to the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA), roughly 86 percent of all auto thefts in Minnesota last year took place in urban communities. In fact, North Minneapolis neighborhoods have seen a 44 percent increase in auto thefts in the first two months of 2012.

Your Car May be a Target – Although vehicle theft is primarily a crime of opportunity, perpetrators favor certain makes and models. Thieves target a wide range of popular passenger vehicles, often seeking parts from older models to sell on the black market; or the entire vehicle for scrap metal or cash. According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau, the top ten stolen vehicles in Minnesota in 2010 were:





Honda Accord



Honda Civic



Chevrolet Pickup (Full Size)



Toyota Camry



Acura Integra



Dodge Caravan



Saturn SI



Oldsmobile Cutlass/Supreme/Ciera



Ford Explorer



Toyota Corolla


Lock Your Doors – This may seem like a no-brainer. But the best thing any car owner can do to prevent auto theft is lock your doors, close your windows and sun roof, and take your keys with you every time you leave your vehicle. Never leave your car running with the keys inside.

Never Hide Your Keys – Many drivers hide a spare key behind the visor or stuck to a magnet under the bumper. But seasoned car thieves know all your favorite spots.

Keep Your Valuables Out of Sight – A cell phone, CD case, or briefcase on your passenger seat in plain view is a big invitation for car thieves to strike. Whenever you leave your vehicle, lock the doors and put all valuables in your trunk or glove compartment.

Keep Your Registration Out of the Glove Box – Many drivers keep their vehicle registration in the car at all times. But motorists are strongly advised to never keep their title or registration in their cars. If your car is stolen, a thief can use these documents to more easily dispose of your car. Keep your registration with your driver’s license at all times.

More information about the Auto Theft Prevention Grant Program, including auto theft trends in Minnesota and descriptions of grantee programs is available in this press packet.