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Decal Program Aims to Deter Car Theft : Crime: Participating motorists allow police to stop vehicles between 1 and 5 a.m. without cause to see if they are stolen. CAT is credited with reducing larcenies in other areas.

August 05, 1993|MATHIS CHAZANOV | TIMES STAFF WRITER

WEST LOS ANGELES — Residents of the LAPD's Pacific Division are now able to sign up for a decal program designed to help combat auto theft.

By putting the yellow stickers on their rear windows, owners signal that they will allow police to stop their cars between the hours of 1 and 5 a.m. without cause to see if they are stolen, said senior lead officer Holly Daniel.

Sponsored by the Automobile Club of Southern California, the program began at the Pacific station last month, with a community relations officer available to register cars from 3 to 9 p.m. Thursdays. The station is at 12312 Culver Blvd.

Of the 3,100 cars signed up in a program that began in the San Fernando Valley last year, none have been stolen, Daniel said. The West Los Angeles station has reported similar success with its 400 registrations.

Like car alarms and mechanical devices that immobilize steering wheels, "it's a deterrent," Daniel said.

"Thieves read the paper, they watch the news," she said. "What they're going to do is walk down the street and say, 'This one's got a Club, no; this one's got an alarm, no; this one's got a sticker, no; the next one's got nothing on it. OK. Let's take that one."

She said that between 200 and 300 cars a month are stolen in the Pacific area, up from 150 to 200 last year. The area extends from the Santa Monica Freeway to Los Angeles International Airport.

The yellow stickers seem to be particularly popular among the area's many apartment dwellers, who do not have garages or private driveways to park their cars, said LAPD Sgt. Bill Morgan.

A car thief "can go to a large apartment complex and have (the) pick of anything. It's like a shopping center," he said. "I think (the sticker) is definitely useful."

The program, which originated in New York seven years ago, is credited with reducing the rate of theft for cars that have a sticker. Although the overall theft rate in that city is one of every 15 cars, stickered cars have only a 1-in-574 chance of being stolen.

The Auto Club has underwritten the program, known as CAT (Combat Auto Theft), in 108 cities in Southern California, said Carol VanNatter, a club official.

It is free to drivers, who effectively waive their constitutional guarantee against illegal search and seizure in return for an added measure of security.

"It's not going to remedy the situation, but any deterrent is going to help," VanNatter said.

Westside drivers can also register their cars at the LAPD's West Los Angeles Station, 1663 Butler Ave., between 8 a.m. and 3 p.m. weekdays, although they are asked to call in advance to make sure an officer is available. The number is (310) 575-8431 or 575-8403.

In West Hollywood, CAT stickers are available at the sheriff's station, 720 N. San Vicente Blvd., between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. weekdays. The number is (310) 855-8850.

The LAPD's Hollywood station will be included shortly, VanNatter said.

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