NICB West Region Task Forces – Vehicle Recovery Numbers January 2019

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NICB’s West Region Auto Theft Task Forces have impressive numbers to report for the month of January. These task forces, from California, Nevada, Hawaii, and Arizona, are made up of local, county, and state law enforcement, along with agents from the NICB.

During the month of January, 11 separate Vehicle Task Forces in these four states recovered a total of 467 stolen vehicles (and assisted with 49 stolen vehicle recoveries), for a total recovery value of $4,830,934.

In addition to recovering stolen vehicles and helping return them to their rightful owners, these teams made auto theft related arrests, initiated vehicle theft investigations, conducted vehicle inspections, parole and probation searches, business inspections, conducted insurance fraud related criminal investigations, investigated a chop shop, and assisted other law enforcement agencies.

Preliminary Semiannual Crime Statistics 2018 Shows Decrease in Vehicle Theft

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The Preliminary Semiannual Uniform Crime Report was released at the end of February, revealing a decrease in motor vehicle thefts. This FBI report covers the first 6 months of 2018, in comparison with the first 6 months of 2017. From January to June of 2018, vehicle thefts decreased by 3.3 percent.

By region, the largest decrease in motor vehicle theft was found in the western United States. When considering population size, the largest decrease was found in cities with population size ranging from 25,000 to 249,999.

This is the first time in four years that motor vehicle theft had decreased within the first 6 months of the year.

In addition, overall property crimes for the first half of 2018 were down 7.2 percent, in comparison with the same time frame during 2017.

The full report can be found here.

Counterfeit air bags are a hidden threat

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Vehicle air bags, also known as supplemental restraint systems, have come a long way since they debuted in the 1970s. At that time, air bags were limited to the front and deployed the same way for every occupant and crash. While the air bags of yesteryear were valuable, they come nowhere close to the protection and sophistication of today’s air bags.

Many vehicles nowadays have 10 or more air bags strategically located throughout the vehicle cabin, such as knee, center, rear curtain, and even seatbelt air bags. In the event of a crash, sensors within the vehicle register the force and location of the collision, the position and size of the vehicle occupants, and calculates which air bags to deploy and the speed and pressure of the deployment – all in just about 30 milliseconds.

The results are nothing less than lifesaving. From 1987 to 2015, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates nearly 45,000 lives have been saved by frontal air bags. Consumers that own air bag equipped vehicles have come to embrace the added protection and expect the air bags to work without flaw. That is why the prospect of counterfeit air bags is so alarming.

When consumers must have an air bag replaced, there is an inherent belief that the air bag installed is a genuine manufacturer’s air bag for their vehicle. In fact, consumers have no way of knowing otherwise.

Counterfeit air bags are a national and growing concern. Usually procured online by unsuspecting consumers shopping for a bargain, or by unscrupulous vehicle repair ships out to pad their profits, these air bags just don’t work. The NHTSA states that counterfeit air bags have been shown to “consistently malfunction,” from non-deployment to the expulsion of metal shrapnel during deployment.

“It’s among the most insidious forms of insurance fraud,” says Matthew Smith, Director of Government Affairs and General Counsel for the Coalition Against Insurance Fraud. “Phony air bags are dangerous and can kill; it’s like a time bomb on four wheels.”

However, there are ways consumers can help protect themselves and their passengers from being scammed:

  1. When turning on the ignition, look for the air bag dashboard light (check your owner’s manual if you do not know what it looks like). If the light stays on, starts flashing, or doesn’t flash on at all, your air bag system probably isn’t working.
  2. Before you purchase a used vehicle, make sure to have it inspected by a trusted, certified mechanic. Ask them to specifically check the air bags.
  3. If your vehicle is involved in a crash in which an air bag deployed, consider having the air bag replaced at an authorized car dealership repair shop.
  4. Support state legislation that criminalizes the manufacture, sale and installation of counterfeit air bags.

Alan Haskins, Vice President of Government Affairs for the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) says, “Only 17 states have adopted counterfeit air bag laws, but the rest are starting to catch-up. We, along with industry partners, are advocating for counterfeit air bag laws in all 50 states, and just this year alone the NICB is tracking and engaged in counterfeit air bag bills in seven states.”

For more information on how to protect yourself as a consumer, visit the web pages on air bag scams of the National Insurance Crime Bureau or the Coalition Against Insurance Fraud.

State elected officials or staff interested in strengthening their counterfeit air bag laws should contact NICB’s government affairs department at GovernmentAffairs@nicb.org or 800-447-6282.

Successful Insurance Card Operation – Cape Coral, Florida

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The NICB helped organize an insurance card operation in Southwest Florida, focused on keeping the roads safe from uninsured drivers.  Local law enforcement recognizes that insurance fraud is an issue in Southwest Florida and regularly works with the NICB to continue to combat the problem.

NICB Agents Eddie Hernandez and Joy Shanafelt briefing the officers

The operation took place between the hours of 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. on Wednesday, February 13. A total of 21 officers made stops across the city, including officers from Florida Highway Patrol, Fort Myers Police Department, Lee County Sheriff’s Office, and the Cape Coral Police Department.

Captain Mike Torregrossa of the Cape Coral Police Department speaking to the operation participants

Insurance representatives were on hand to take calls from the officers, ready to validate insurance card information of those who were stopped. Thirteen insurance claim investigators were present to assist, along with four NICB Agents.

NICB Agent Eddie Hernandez (left) and NICB Agent David Price – (right)

During the five hour period, 75 stops were made, 45 citations were issued (13 of those insurance related). Additionally, 65 written warnings were handed out, and one non-insurance related arrest was made.

Local coverage of the event from NBC2 News

Heavy Equipment ID Training at World AG Expo

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On February 11, 2019, the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB), in cooperation with the International Agri-Center, conducted a law enforcement heavy equipment identification training day at the 52nd Annual World AG Expo in Tulare, CA. 

NICB Special Agent Neil Carmody discussing heavy equipment theft statistics

This annual training affords law enforcement professionals the opportunity to interact with representatives from the heavy equipment industry and inspect their equipment for identification serial numbers.  This training helps law enforcement to identify stolen equipment and their related components. 

John Deere’s Bryan Thul discussing John Deere PIN plates

This year’s key note presenter was Mr. Bryan Thul of the John Deere Company, who addressed approximately 60 law enforcement officers from throughout California. 

A group shot during Mr. Thul’s presentation

Representatives from Bobcat and Kubota were also on hand to interact with attendees.  This year’s training was hosted by NICB Special Agent Neil Carmody and assisted by Special Agents Lou Koven and Gabe Marquez.

NICB West Region Task Force Activity for 2018

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*Article updated 1/29/19 with new numbers from additional task force reporting.

The NICB West Region Auto Theft Task Force numbers for 2018 show an impressive number of stolen vehicle recoveries. The West Region includes the states of California, Hawaii, Arizona, and Nevada, and the task forces include NICB employees, along with local, county, and state law enforcement.

Totals from 11 separate task forces reveal in 2018, 5,354 stolen vehicles were recovered. The value of those recovered vehicles adds up to $49,739,260.00.

Vehicle recoveries are just one part of the task forces workload. They also assist with investigations, arrests, searches, inspections, uncovering chop shops, training, and much more.

 

NICB West Region Special Agent Travels Abroad to Train in INTERPOL Effort

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NICB’s experience fighting insurance fraud and vehicle crime often leads to assisting groups internationally.  On December 3-4, 2018, Special Agent Neil Carmody did just that. He traveled to Accra, Ghana, to train law enforcement officials from the West African countries of Ghana, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Liberia and Gambia, as part of INTERPOL’s “Project Adwenpa – Specialized Border Management Training.”

The goal of the project was to strengthen port and land border law enforcement management efforts and enhance communication and cooperation between nations in the region. Topics included North American Vehicle Identification, U.S. Theft Trends, VIN Switching, Export Fraud and Open Source Investigative Resources.

NICB Special Agent Neil Carmody (left) pictured with Ms. Theresa Finda Lebbe of Liberia Customs and Sgt. Nathan Rickets, London Metro Police

“The instruction focused on physical indicators to properly identify vehicles as well as indicators of counterfeit VIN numbers, fraudulent labels, and VIN plates, to detect potential theft,” Carmody said. Carmody co-instructed the class on vehicle theft with Sgt. Nathan Rickets of the London Metro Police Department.

Students, instructors and INTERPOL officials upon completion of field practical exercises at a Ghana Customs vehicle impound yard

Following classroom training, students participated in a practical field exercise at a Ghana Customs impound yard, identifying 10 stolen vehicles: six Range Rovers, two BMWs, one Lexus and one Jeep Wrangler, nine of which were VIN switches. The stolen vehicles originated in Italy, Germany, Belgium, Ukraine and Canada.

2018 Foreign Operations Repatriation Statistics

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During 2018, Foreign Operations located 2,536 vehicles and recovered 2,485 vehicles from foreign countries. The total number of vehicles repatriated in 2018 is a 4.5-percent increase from the number of vehicles recovered in 2017, which totaled 2,378 vehicles.

Below is a brief overview of the top recovery cities, top makes/models located, and top theft cities based on the 2,536 vehicles located during 2018.

Top 5 Recovery Cities
1. Tijuana, Baja California (880)
2. Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua (140)
3. Nogales, Sonora (136)
4. Hermosillo, Sonora (101)
5. Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas (100)

Top 5 Makes Located
1. Ford (412)
2. Chevrolet (405)
3. Nissan (308)
4. Toyota (222)
5. Honda (177)

Top 5 Models Located
1. Ford F150 (145)
2. Chevrolet Silverado (108)
3. Toyota Camry (90)
4. Nissan Altima (74)
5. Honda Accord (72)

Top 5 Theft Cities by ORI
1. San Diego Police Department (217)
2. El Paso Police Department (130)
3. Phoenix Police Department (96)
4. California Highway Patrol- San Diego (92)
5. Tucson Police Department (75)

NICB West Region Task Forces – Vehicle Recovery Numbers

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NICB’s West Region Auto Theft Task Forces were hard at work during the month of November. These task forces, from California, Nevada, Hawaii, and Arizona, are made up of local, county, and state law enforcement, along with agents from the NICB.

During the month of November, 11 separate Vehicle Task Forces recovered a total of 411 stolen vehicles, valued at $4,184,910.

Of note – Delta RATT investigators located two ransacked stolen vehicles dumped near the residence of a male probationer with two outstanding felony warrants. When investigators appeared to search the residence, the man hid in the attic. A police K-9 forced the man to surrender after the man fell through the living room ceiling. The man now faces resisting arrest charges, and faces seven years in prison on the outstanding warrants.

In addition to recovering stolen vehicles and helping return them to their rightful owners, these teams make auto theft related arrests, serve search warrants, launch investigations, conduct vehicle inspections, investigate chop shops, and assist other law enforcement agencies.

 

New Public Service Announcements from the NICB

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The NICB recently released a new package of Public Service Announcements. These PSAs focus on two major issues, preventing auto theft, and recognizing medical fraud after an auto accident.

The preventing auto theft PSA aims to inform drivers of simple steps they can take to keep their vehicle safe.

The other, regarding medical fraud, focuses on anyone who has been involved in an auto accident. Accident victims are often targeted by fraudsters, who want to make quick cash by defrauding insurance companies. The PSA gives practical tips on best practices regarding what to do, and not to do, after an auto accident.

Preventing Auto Theft: https://youtu.be/vPWgcITM_ug

Auto Accident Related Medical Fraud: https://youtu.be/ApEpaOshrCc 

These PSAs are available for use by media outlets and websites. Each topic has a 30 and 60-second version, and is available in English and Spanish. For anyone who needs access to raw files or audio files, please complete our media request form.