- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 28, 2002

D.C. police started a Watch Your Car program yesterday that it expects will reduce car thefts.
"Auto theft remains a serious problem in the city," Metropolitan Police Department Chief Charles H. Ramsey said. "In the District, stolen cars are often used in other crimes" and "it is often an enabler of more serious and more violent crimes."
Watch Your Car, a voluntary, free project, has proven effective in 14 states, including Maryland, officials said at the announcement at Metro's Eastern Market Station in Southeast.
Car owners must apply for stickers that are affixed on the front and back windows. Cars with those stickers will be stopped by police if seen moving on streets and roads between 1 and 5 a.m.
They will be stopped, even outside the District, in Maryland or other Watch Your Car states. Occupants will be asked to show identification, which will be checked against registration to be certain they are legal owners and drivers.
The project is paid for by a $200,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice.
"In parts of Ward 6, abandoned and stolen vehicles are dumped in alleys and set afire. It's an alarming problem at night," D.C. Council member Sharon Ambrose, Ward 6 Democrat, said.
Of 19 cars stolen daily, almost 20 percent are stolen in the 6th District in Southeast, and 42 percent of those are taken between 1 and 5 a.m. The total value of 6,500 cars stolen in the District last year was $47 million, said Detective Daniel Straub, head of the police Auto Theft Unit.
Car thefts have been increasing in recent months from parking lots at or near Metro stations, Chief Ramsey said.
About 52,000 vehicles are parked daily on Metro lots. Many are left overnight. Metro police who patrol the lots will be greatly assisted by the Watch Your Car stickers, Metro Transit Police Chief Barry McDevitt said.
Kathy Chamberlain was one of three residents at yesterday's program to get the first Watch Your Car stickers. Ms. Chamberlain, who lives in the 2900 block of W Street SE, has a 1990 Honda Accord EX that has been stolen twice.
"Both times, it was stolen from in front of my house," said Ms. Chamberlain, an advisory neighborhood commissioner. "I thought at first I must have misplaced it."
The first time, in 1994, the thief, or thieves, wrecked the front end. They were never caught. The second time, in 1995, the car was found with little damage in Northeast.
Information and applications for Watch Your Car can be obtained at Metropolitan Police Department stations, Department of Motor Vehicles facilities and public libraries, or by calling toll free at 877/DC2-STOP.
Soon, applications may be made at the police department's Web site, www.mpdc.dc.gov.


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