Hondas and Toyotas, and sometimes Saturns, are usually listed as the most stolen cars. But when vehicle thefts suddenly skyrocketed this month in Lodi, the trend appeared to be Chevrolet trucks and vans.
Of the 65 cars stolen in August, nearly a third of them were Chevrolet trucks and vans, according to Lodi police statistics.
The number of overall vehicle thefts is so much higher this year - compared to 26 in August 2006 - that the city is now getting the attention of the Delta Regional Auto Theft Task Force, said Lodi Police Detective Nick Welton, who is working full-time on the task force.
He suspects that one Lodi man, who was arrested Tuesday, is responsible for many of the stolen Chevrolet trucks. In many of the cases, the truck's steering column was broken in the same place and a screwdriver was used to start the vehicle. The suspect got so good at it, that in just a few minutes he could quickly drive away with a vehicle.
The relatively good news is that many of the vehicles are recovered after the thieves steal them. But the owners aren't exactly thrilled to learn that they have some repairs to make, because the vehicle has been used, abused and then ditched.
"(Thieves) steal it to get whatever they can out of the vehicle and then they cut the catalytic converter out," Welton said.
Catalytic converters are then sold to recyclers to melt down precious metals inside, but the vehicle owner has to pay a couple hundred dollars to replace it - more if the exhaust system has been damaged. Then the steering column has to be repaired. Sometimes the window has been broken to get into the vehicle.
Though some vehicles were stolen when the owners left keys in them, many vehicles were properly locked, said Lodi Police Crime Prevention Officer Andrea Patterson, who reviewed reports on the vehicles stolen in August.
Of the 65 autos stolen as of Thursday, 14 were Chevrolet trucks, two were Chevrolet Blazers and five were Chevrolet Astro vans.
Those numbers got the attention of more than one Lodi officer, because Hondas and Toyotas usually top the list.
In August, 10 Honda Civics have been stolen.
All told, stolen Chevrolet trucks and vans alone totaled 21, just five fewer vehicles than the total number of autos stolen during August 2006.
Other models, however, weren't left out.
Five Ford trucks were stolen, as well as two Ford Expeditions, two GMC trucks and three vans were also stolen, Patterson said.
Now that one suspect is jailed, Welton is hoping the theft rate drops.
But because the vehicle theft rate nearly tripled over last August, the auto theft task force is focusing on Lodi.
Welton is working full-time with the group, and said he hopes to see the theft rate drop.