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editorial - 4/17/01 - mail

April 16, 2001

Census numbers are not only thing growing here



Recently released census figures show that between 1990 and 2000, Washington County's population grew by 8.7 percent. Unfortunately, it seems, other things grew as well and local residents will have to change their ways to keep their property safe.

The property that's at risk is vehicles - cars, trucks and all-terrain vehicles. A recent Capital News Service evaluation of statistics kept by the Maryland Vehicle Theft Prevention Council shows that between 1994 and 1999, vehicle theft in Washington County jumped by 70 percent.

That's not nearly as bad as the increase in Baltimore City, where vehicle thefts are so prevalent that the theft council gave the city grants for education and an anti-theft task force. In five years' time, those measures are credited with cutting vehicle theft inn Baltimore by more than 10 percent.

In Washington County, the council has provided a $500 grant the sheriff's office will use to educate people on the need to remove their car keys when they park the vehicle.

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It sounds like common-sense advice, but 25 percent of all the cars stolen in Maryland in 2000 were lost by owners who left keys in the ignition switch or somewhere inside the vehicle, like above the sun visor.

As anyone who's searched for a lost set of keys will tell you, yes, it's more convenient to leave the keys in the car. But not only does it put a substantial investment at risk, it makes it easier for a theft to occur.

That increases citizens' costs in two ways. The first is when the sheriff's department or other policy agency has to spend time on an investigation. The second is when insurance companies must cover the cost of damage or replacement of a stolen vehicle.

Finally, making it easy for a thief also makes it easy for a youth who's never been in trouble before to decide - on a whim or a dare - to do take a "joy ride.". Before you leave the keys in the car, consider what you'd say to the parents if such a youth died doing something stupid.

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