One of the units that was disbanded was the auto task force, which focused on preventing and solving insurance fraud and car thefts. The result was a spike in the number of reported car thefts.
In 2010, there were 769 thefts reported, but by 2011, the number had risen to 1,026 - a 33 percent hike.
“The numbers spiked in the latter part of 2010,” Romero said, “and continued to go up in all of 2011.”
In April 2012, funding was restored to rehire police officers, and the department’s specialized crime units were reactivated.
“We started up special operations and have seen significant reductions in all crime,” he said, including car thefts.
For 2012, there 686 car thefts reported, a drop of about 35 percent.
The trend is continuing for the first quarter of 2013. According to statistics supplied by the department, there were 161 car thefts in the first three months of 2013, a 13 percent decrease from the first three months of 2012.
Romero attributes the drop to a more focused approach to crime prevention.
“We are able to concentrate on specific crimes,” he said. He said the auto fraud task force, set up in 2003, was also instrumental in reducing the number of cars reported stolen.
“People would report the car stolen to get out from under a big payment,” he said, noting that people would trash their cars and then junk them somewhere then report them stolen. Then they’d collect on the insurance money. After police cracked down on that practice, he said, “people became more leery of reporting their cars stolen.”
At the tow lot at Sheehan’s, several of the dozens of cars in storage there are in various states of disrepair. One had its engine removed. Another had all four wheels taken, and it was left on milk crates.
Still others simply had the ignition popped.
“Sometimes they just take them for a joyride,” Cyr said.