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All areas of El Paso except for Central see decrease in car thefts

Central El Paso is the only part of the city seeing an increase in car thefts, police say.

The number of car thefts is down in every area of El Paso except one. The El Paso Police Department said Central El Paso is the only part of the city seeing an increase in car thefts.

"I have a pretty nice vehicle. Sometimes I've left it open. No one's even touched it. I've always felt safe here,” said West El Paso resident Paul Martinez.

The Police Department sent CBS4 the number of auto thefts in El Paso in 2018 compared to 2017. In Central El Paso, there have been 10 more this year than at the same time last year -- 56 compared to 46. In Mission Valley, there have been four fewer auto thefts, with 32 compared to 36. There have been 11 fewer in the Northeast, with 39 compared to 50. There have been two fewer in Pebble Hills, with 81 compared to 83, and there have been seven fewer on the Westside, with 38 compared to 45.

The El Paso Police Department's Auto Theft Task Force said that, while Central's auto thefts have risen by 20 percent, auto thefts in the rest of the city are down by 5 percent.

"It's really surprising because I would imagine downtown to be one of the places where it's more secure to leave your car,” said UTEP student Ricardo Soto.

To protect car owners, the Police Department offers a program called VIN etching.

"It's a process where we fix the VIN number of the vehicle to the glass of the car. We do it with a soft-gel acid,” said Stephen Plummer, with the Auto Theft Task Force. “At that point, it makes the vehicle less valuable to a thief because most shops are not going to buy that as parts with that VIN number on it when they don't have proof that it's theirs."

The Police Department etches the vehicle identification number for free, and having it done could make you eligible for a 10 percent discount on your vehicle's insurance coverage for theft.

Plummer said the number of car thefts in Central El Paso has increased because it is one of the largest regions in the city, and a lot of the thefts are insurance fraud cases.

"(That is) Where someone takes their vehicle intentionally to get rid of it, and then they come back and they call in from Downtown El Paso reporting that their vehicle had been stolen in El Paso,” Plummer said.

That's against the law. As far as what's causing the decline in the rest of El Paso, police said it's the Lock, Take and Hide initiative, along with stories like this one.

"It’s the media and the El Paso Police Department working together to get information out on how to keep vehicles safe,” said Darrel Petry, public information officer for the El Paso Police Department.

"We'll try to figure out ways to be more preventative about it,” said Downtown El Paso resident Andre Morales.

It's against state law to leave your car running with the keys in it. So, if you turn your car on to cool the inside before you drive, or if you have it on and run into a gas station for a second, El Paso police can write you a citation. The only exception is if you have a remote starter.

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