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A Growing Arsenal Aimed at Stopping the Criminals

April 25, 1993|PAMELA WARRICK

From bulletproof windows to recorded messages ordering thieves out of the car (in English and Spanish), the number of devices aimed at beating car criminals is growing.

Newest on the scene in this $400-million industry is the Lasso, a remote-controlled alarm system designed to truly alarm thieves. The computer-chip mechanism goes into action within 75 seconds of the heist. That's when car lights start flashing and a voice booms out, "Pull over now. Get out of my vehicle!"

As the message repeats, sirens begin to blare--six tones outside the vehicle and a single ear-splitting squeal inside. Twenty seconds later, the Lasso shuts down the engine.

For $299, say Lasso makers, you can be pretty sure you'll get your car back.

For about $20 to $60, there are steering-wheel locks that, according to the ads on the back of city buses, police adore. Maybe, but professional car thieves say a dash of liquid nitrogen can release some of them in a matter of seconds.

LoJack, a popular electronic auto-recovery system, uses homing devices secreted in the car's innards to send messages to police after they've been alerted by the owner that the car has been stolen. The company boasts the devices lead to recovery of 70% of LoJack-equipped cars, some in as little as five minutes.

As the crimes involving cars increasingly involve violent confrontations with their drivers, some security companies are identifying a new market: drivers who are worried more about their own safety.

For them, says one security executive, "Bulletproof windows are a logical first step. . . ." In a recent speech, Bill O'Gara of O'Gara-Hess & Eisenhardt armored car company, reported a growing demand for armor plating of personal autos.

With the rise in violent car crimes, said O'Gara, his company is "back in the domestic market and we are now offering the PSV II, which incorporates ballistic protection." O'Gara said his company is getting 50 calls a month from people who want the security an armored car offers.

And even with a price tag of $20,000 (not counting the price of the car), people are buying, he says.

Even with this range of protective devices, police say there is no guarantee. If a thief wants your car badly enough, the thief will get your car.

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