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THURSDAY, AUGUST 6, 1998202/307-0703


WASHINGTON, D.C.-- Building on efforts launched last year to help prevent auto theft, the nation's number one property crime, the Justice Department today announced grants totaling $770,000 to five states and one U.S. territory for the Watch Your Car program. In 1996, more than 1.3 million motor vehicles with an estimated value of $7.5 million were stolen.

The grants, administered by the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA), will enable the states to produce and distribute decals that motorists can place on their vehicles to alert public safety officials they are not normally operated during certain times of the day or in the vicinity of international land borders or ports. Last year, nearly 300,000 stolen vehicles were shipped out of the country aboard cargo ships.

"This approach, used in conjunction with other common sense deterrents like removing keys, locking the doors, parking in a locked garage, and other measures, make a vehicle difficult to steal," said BJA Director Nancy Gist. "These decals notify would-be thieves and authorities that after certain hours and in certain places, the vehicle should not be operated."

The grants to Alabama, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Minnesota, South Carolina and the Virgin Islands are being made under the Motor Vehicle Theft Prevention Act. Similar grants have been made to Arizona, Maryland, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, and Tennessee over the past two years.

Residents participating in the Watch Your Car Program receive decals from the state. Information about the owner, names of other authorized drivers, and the vehicle registered in the program is kept in a state database that is instantly accessible to law enforcement officials at all times. If an officer sees a vehicle with the appropriate decals on a public road between 1:00 a.m. and 5:00 a.m., or anytime within one mile of an international land border or port, the officer is authorized to stop the car and question its driver.

Some states will offer vehicle identification number (VIN) etching in conjunction with the Watch Your Car program. VIN etching consists of permanently embedding each vehicle's unique 17-character identification number onto each glass surface. Car thieves often change a stolen vehicle's identity by switching the conspicuous VIN plates on a vehicle, creating a forged title, retitling and registering the vehicle in another state and selling the vehicle to an unsuspecting buyer.

The following chart includes the amount each state will receive, a local contact for each grant, and the contact's phone number. For additional information about the Watch Your Car program or BJA, visit the BJA website at: For additional information on OJP and its programs, visit:

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BJA 98-186

After hours page Doug Johnson at 1-888/582-6753


Alabama $138, 250 Lt. David L. Duke Alabama Department of Public Safety
Montgomery, AL
Connecticut $134,250 Cpt. Richard Wheeler
Connecticut Department of Public Safety
Division of State Police
Middletown, CT
Massachusetts $150,000 Det. Paul Jarosiewicz
Massachusetts Executive Office of Public Safety Programs
Boston, MA
617/727-6300 x313
Minnesota $125,711 Dennis Rosky
Minnesota Auto Theft Prevention Program
St. Paul, MN
South Carolina $115,750 Cpt. S.D. Wilson
South Carolina Highway Patrol
Columbia, SC
Virgin Islands $106,097 Helene Smollett
Virgin Islands Law Enforcement Planning Commission
St. Thomas, VI
Total: $770, 058