By ZARIA PHILLIPS
Capital News Service
LANSING — Michigan vehicle thefts dropped from 50,000 in 2006 to less than 20,000 in 2017, according to a recent auditor general’s report.
Michigan’s vehicle theft peaked in the 1980s, prompting former Gov. James Blanchard to implement the Auto Theft Prevention Authority, a program that combines community and law enforcement efforts to decrease vehicle thefts.
The program awarded $4 million in grants to 20 organizations in 2018 to investigate, apprehend, prosecute and prevent vehicle theft, said Kelly Miller, state relations officer for the Auditor General’s Office.
“The money comes from auto insurance assessments,” Miller said. ”One dollar is allocated to the fund for every personal, passenger and commercial vehicle receiving insurance.”
The program’s board of directors decides how that money is allocated to law enforcement agencies, prosecutors, nonprofit organizations and state departments. It generated $7.5 million dollars in 2017 from the auto insurance assessments and gave out $6.2 million that year.
In 2017 thefts dropped by 603 vehicles from the previous year.
“We can’t study all of the reasons for the decrease in automobile thefts but we do believe that the money being allocated to these programs plays a factor,” Miller said.
The Combined Auto Theft Team made up of the Grand Rapids, Kentwood and Wyoming police departments received more than $300,000 from the program in 2018.
Sgt. Keith Hefner, the supervisor of the team, said that the grant went to investigate auto theft and to providing tips on how to avoid vehicle theft.
Michigan’s vehicle theft in 2017 ranks third in comparison to nearby Ohio, Indiana, Wisconsin and Illinois, according to the auditor general. In 2016 Michigan was highest. Now that title goes to Illinois with 20,881 vehicle thefts per year.