Monday, December 13, 2010

Notes on the History of Auto Theft in the U.S. I -- J. Edgar Hoover, 1952, "Auto Theft is Big Business"

Notes on the History of Auto Theft in the U.S. I -- J. Edgar Hoover, 1952, "Auto Theft is Big Business"
From Motor Trend, 4 (December, 1952), 17-18, 42.
p.17: "Since the close of World War II, more than one million automobile thefts have been reported…. The prey of amateur and professional criminals alike, automobiles now are among the largest items on the e nation's ledger of annual losses due to theft."
…reports reveal that the value of automobiles stolen in the 381 cities totaled more than $95,000,000 during 1951, while all other property taken by robbers and thieves was valued at little more than $61,000,000.
Over the entire nation an estimated 196,960 automobiles, valued at more than $190,000,000 were stolen last year.
The investigative jurisdiction of the FBI is limited to those cases in which the stolen automobile has been transported from one state to another; however, though cost-free services provided by the FBI Laboratory and identification Division, the FBI has been able to assist state and municipal law enforcement agencies in identifying and convicting numerous auto thieves whose operations have not extended across state lines.
AS a first step in effecting a more concentrated offensive against automobile thieves, he FBI called upon state and local law enforcement agencies to meet with its agents in regional conferences which are now being held throughout the nation. Also participating in these conferences are state motor vehicle bureaus, the National Automobile Theft Bureau, and other interested agencies. Devoted solely to open forum discussion of car thefts, the conferences are meeting everywhere with interest and enthusiasm. … there has been universal agreement that an alert, educated public is the greatest asset available to the law enforcement officer in coping with this type of crime.
p. 18--
Professionalism in the theft of automobiles reaches its ultimate peak in the operations of gangs which are organized in a business-like manner to steal cars for resale. …
A typical auto theft ring employs a "spotter" who locates automobiles to be stolen, often having instructions to find cars of a particular make and model. Another member of the ring steals the car and delivers it to a garage where the automobile may be repainted and such identification marks as engine and serial numbers altered or removed.
In addition, these rings have employed persons who specialize in obtaining false registrations and bills of sale, using still others to drive the cars to various points throughout the nation to be sold.
One such gang which was composed of 10 men recently was smashed by the FBI in cooperation with several municipal and state law enforcement agencies in the South. This ring was engaged primarily in the theft of 1949 and 1950 models of one type of automobile. Included among its members were persons who were skilled in changing engine and serial numbers. In addition, they often replaced the transmissions and locks on the cars before selling them. The expenses incurred by such auto theft rings are high. Their continuation in "business" is dependent upon handling a large number of stolen cars.
In another case, the FBI joined with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in rounding up a ring which specialized in stealing automobiles in the U.S. and transporting them to Canada. Here again was a ring which amassed huge profits despite expenses.
Photo: FBI Laboratory and Identification Division has assisted local law enforcement agencies in identifying and convicting auto thieves. Here a metallograph is used to study metals.
Photo: Typical of thoroughness with which FBI investigates stolen cars is this national automotive paint file. The search here reveals year and make from which paint in hub cap came.

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