KSBY Investigates: Santa Maria police to announce plan to curb a - KSBY.com | San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara Area News

KSBY Investigates: Santa Maria police to announce plan to curb auto thefts

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Two months after a KSBY investigation of an auto theft epidemic in Santa Maria, city police officials plan to announce the creation of a multi-agency task force to reduce the crime.

The SMPD reports 883 vehicles were reported stolen in the city last year. That's short of the 1,000 figure Police Chief Ralph Martin said in December the city was on pace to hit in 2014.

The 2014 numbers compare to 754 thefts the SMPD reported for the previous year. (That number was originally reported to the state and public by the SMPD as 730. It was revised upward after the SMPD took a closer look at its original numbers last month. The additional 24 thefts reflect cases not reported to the state that came in after its monthly deadlines.)

The KSBY investigation revealed Santa Maria had more vehicles stolen in 2013 than the combined totals for 10 other cities on the Central Coast. Reflecting the national trend, older-model Hondas were the most popular targets for thieves.

Chief Martin said the California Highway Patrol and other local law enforcement agencies will be part of a task force focusing on auto thefts in the Santa Maria Valley.

He told KSBY in December he hopes to be able to report a 25 to 30 percent drop in this crime in the city by the end of 2015.

The chief also said the task force will use "bait" cars and public service announcements in the battle against auto thieves.

More details of the plan to reduce auto thefts will be revealed at a news conference on Wednesday at 2 p.m. at the SMPD. Santa Maria Mayor Alice Patino, Guadalupe Police Chief Gary Hoving and CHP Division Chief Reginald Chappelle will join Chief Martin at the news conference.

For a breakdown of the stolen and recovered vehicles in 2014, click here.

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