Please Stop My Car

Residents of Prescott Valley are being invited to register their car if they don't drive in the middle of the night. Police will then stop those cars if they are on the road at that time, under the assumption that they're stolen.

The Watch Your Car decal program is a voluntary program whereby vehicle owners enroll their vehicles with the AATA. The vehicle is then entered into a special database, developed and maintained by the AATA, which is directly linked to the Motor Vehicle Division (MVD).

Participants then display the Watch Your Car decals in the front and rear windows of their vehicle. By displaying the decals, vehicle owners convey to law enforcement officials that their vehicle is not usually in use between the hours of 1:00 AM and 5:00 AM, when the majority of thefts occur.

If a police officer witnesses the vehicle in operation between these hours, they have the authority to pull it over and question the driver. With access to the MVD database, the officer will be able to determine if the vehicle has been stolen, or not. The program also allows law enforcement officials to notify the vehicle's owner immediately upon determination that it is being illegally operated.

This program is entirely optional, but there's a serious externality. If the police spend time chasing false alarms, they're not available for other police business. If the town charged car owners a fine for each false alarm, I would have no problems with this program. It doesn't have to be a large fine, but it has to be enough to offset the cost to the town. It's no different than police departments charging homeowners for false burglar alarms, when the alarm systems are automatically hooked into the police stations.

Posted on October 16, 2006 at 6:30 AM • 71 Comments

Comments

Particlar Random GuyOctober 16, 2006 6:56 AM

Being a crime to remove the stickers it will surely scare car thieves off.

Criminal MindOctober 16, 2006 7:18 AM

And, of course, car thieves are not clever enough to simply slap a slightly larger sticker over the "stop this car" sticker.

AnonymousOctober 16, 2006 7:25 AM

In addition, the "entry" requirement for car owners into this program could be that they need to have some decent lock or alarm system installed, to show that they care enough of their car.

Paul CrowleyOctober 16, 2006 7:31 AM

I think they've failed to take advantage of a much greater positive benefit. They should *not* be issuing stickers for this scheme. They should only be using their numberplate database.

Thieves should have no way of knowing whether the car they are thinking of stealing is part of the database. What the hell is the benefit of encouraging a thief to steal car B rather than car A? This scheme could greatly increase the risks of car theft.

For the same reason, there should be no requirement that your car have a decent lock or alarm system before you join the scheme.

Mark EarnestOctober 16, 2006 7:45 AM

And according to the law of unintended consequences, the one time you DO need to drive at night will probably be some kind of emergency. Possibly the kind where being stopped by every police officer along the way would not be welcome.

SeanOctober 16, 2006 7:48 AM

We've (Manitoba, Canada) had such a program in place for a few years. I don't know the success rate, but it's constantly being promoted so my assumption would be that it's worth any cost.

Having the sticker and driving in the middle of the night does not guarantee getting stopped. I'm sure that if the police had anything more important to do they would be doing it.

All the sticker does is make your car slightly less attractive to a thief than the one next to it.

EricOctober 16, 2006 8:10 AM

Re: Paul Crowley's comment...

While I see the value of what Mr. Crowley suggests, I beleive the purpose of the program is to make the vehicles easily identifiable to police, not to make police look up the plates of every vehicle they see during those hours. Putting the plates into a database that seldom or never gets checked provides no benefit.

I believe Sean has hit the crux of the matter in that the sticker makes one's car slightly less attractive to thieves.

mdfOctober 16, 2006 8:13 AM

The program is without merit. Stickers can be removed or covered up, license plates changed, etc. Add to that Mark Earnest "unintended consequences", the likelihood of an emergency use being interfered with is very great indeed. (If this probability was small, it would stand as ipso facto proof of the uselessness of the program).

It's probably just another one of the ways the cops use to make the people feel safer than they actually are. We all know what that is called, don't we?

Michael AshOctober 16, 2006 8:16 AM

Keep in mind that when it comes to theft of an object which is available by the million, you don't need a 100% workable deterrent. Computer security becomes effectively worthless if there's any hole, because the information spreads rapidly and the exploit can be automated. But when it comes to cars, simply protecting against the moron who knows how to hotwire a nice ride but doesn't think about covering some stickers can be a good benefit.

Personally the program sounds dubious and I wouldn't sign up for it precisely because I never know when I'd want to drive around in the middle of the night, but just because it's easy to defeat doesn't make it worthless.

I'm not entirely sure the cited externality actually is one. If the police stop a driver and it's a false alarm, that obviously means the driver is legitimate, and is losing time and having to spend unpleasant time with suspicious police. Whether this is enough to deter abuse is hard to say, but it's not entirely free for the driver.

Dave PageOctober 16, 2006 8:19 AM

So if you put your stickers in your car, and it gets stolen, your car may be pulled over by the police, who'll check it on the MVD database to see whether it's reported stolen? Surely if you're tucked up in bed between 1am and 5am, you won't have reported it yet?

LonerVampOctober 16, 2006 8:32 AM

To risk getting on another topic, there are 100% workable deterrents in computer security? Holy crap, sign me up! I guess my working under the assumption that there will be holes is a wrong one. :(

Point though, is that just like computer security, police security is not meant to be a 100% perfect solution. If our police departments operated this way, we'd be spending a heck of a lot more money on them.

I see no huge problems with the car-stopping program, but obviously it is not some panacea either. Personally, I wouldn't sign up because it is just another one of those annoying little things that add unneeded complexity to life. Besides, I drive around at night as well...who doesn't?

Dave AronsonOctober 16, 2006 8:33 AM

@Paul Crowley: There is immense benefit... to the owner of Car A. He presumably does not care about Car B. Of course, the owner of Car B suffers a slightly higher risk of theft. Classic externality.

-ac-October 16, 2006 8:34 AM

> All the sticker does is make your car slightly less attractive to a thief than the one next to it.

Not mention making your car less attractive to everyone.

azeOctober 16, 2006 8:37 AM

@Eric

What Sean said is precisely what's wrong with it. If it uses a sticker it's not reducing crime at all; just pushing more crime onto people who have to work at night.

You are, quite rightly I think, assuming that the thief is out to steal some car. She doesn't care which and will just take the one without the sticker. This actually makes her less likely to be stopped since the Police "know" that that car is meant to be driving around and won't stop it. I can understand the benefit of this for an individual, but the police/state have no right to get involved in such schemes.

Paul's idea changes the whole situation. Now the thief is more likely to be caught since they have a fair chance of picking a tagged car, but the police will find such cars much more rarely and be able to stop them more often. You could even, with little loss of benefit, allow people to take themselves on or off the database with a text message from their mobile phones so that they don't get stopped in emergency.

I believe that in many countries, a standard thing that police do do is sit there checking license plates against their database. I think this is one of the several specific reasons that they are allowed to use to stop cars in most of the the USA for example.

Basil BerntsenOctober 16, 2006 8:42 AM

I understand that this will cost police overhead, however I don't believe there should be a small fine for false alarms. Maybe a small fine for repeat false alarms, but if this reduces the rate of theft, there's no reason to fine those who have to use their car at night once in a blue moon.

csrsterOctober 16, 2006 8:48 AM

If you cause repeated false alarms - the police remove your sticker (with the special sticker-removal technology which is only available to the authorities, of course).

Davi OttenheimerOctober 16, 2006 8:49 AM

I love these sticker programs. A famous photographer doing a nation-wide project had the brilliant idea of making up some stickers of his own. They had some official mumbo jumbo like: "This vehicle monitored by real-time satellite anti-theft tracking: Bin#AS3452423FH-Z Sector#RS87.43"

Nothing like some intimidating art-work to scare would-be thieves into stealing less decorated vehicles...

Speaking of individuality, what's up with the application form requiring only publically available information:

http://www.azwatchyourcar.com/pdfs/...

Wonder if anyone has had the bright idea of filling these out for random cars just to create a ton of false positives? Looks like you just fill it out and mail it in, then stickers are mailed back to you. Unless I'm missing something there's no owner confirmation step? Strange.

meOctober 16, 2006 8:52 AM

This program has been in the Phoenix metro area for at least a few years, while you're given a sticker it also ties into your license plate. It's basically an attempt to curb auto theft as a result of the state being number one for several years running, I'm not sure how it's working out though as last time I checked they were still number one in auto theft.

I don't really think false positives are going to be a problem though, because there are many people who like me who chose not to participate due to the fact that if I am driving around at 0300 I probably don't want to be pulled over, and I imagine many other people my age probably felt the same way, and we'd be the highest false positive rate. Where this program would shine would be with the older people who you'll never find on the road at 0300 or similar.

Mike SherwoodOctober 16, 2006 8:58 AM

This program has been available for some time in Arizona. It's not limited to Prescott Valley.

I haven't heard anyone here in Arizona complain about the program. It doesn't create a burden on police. If they're driving around with nothing to do and spot a car with the sticker, they can pull it over and check out the person driving it. The sticker is all they need for probable cause. They can also stop the car if it's within a mile of the Mexican border since a lot of stolen cars from Arizona are taken to Mexico. It doesn't make any sense to fine the owner of the car since it's entirely up to the officer as there is no alarm to respond to. There is no obligation whatsoever for the police to stop the car.

Police use traffic stops as an excuse to interview someone to potentially discover more serious crimes. It doesn't matter if anyone agrees with that tactic, that's just the way it works. If an officer thinks you or your car look out of place, they can use any traffic infraction, real or imagined, as their reason for stopping you. This sticker gives them the authority (not duty or obligation) to stop someone without having a more specific reason. The owner of the car has indicated that it would be unlikely that the car would be legitimately operated early in the morning and has agreed to the minor inconvenience.

While the benefits may be debatable, I don't see a down side to this program. It's unobtrusive and optional. If I put a sticker on my car, it's possible that on the rare occaision that I go to work before 5, if that coincided with the rare occaision of seeing a cop on the way to work, I could be stopped for 2, maybe even 5 minutes. If my wife put one on her car, it would never create any inconvenience at all.

TordrOctober 16, 2006 9:16 AM

As having these stickers makes your car less attractive for a thief while making it inconvinent for you to use your car at night. I would recomend people to not enrole and make themselfs a false sticker, one that can be easily removed, but good enough to fool a car thief.

Of cause they that use this method will in turn have to enroll all their friends as the number of dummy stickers will have to be kept low to be effective.

AJOctober 16, 2006 9:28 AM

A programme like this was in use in West Yorkshire, England about 10 years ago; my aunt used to have one of their stickers on her car. I'm not sure that there was any database component to that programme, the sticker was the important thing, and the programme was aimed at people (like her) who *never* drove after midnight. Since it's completely voluntary those people who do occasionally need to do so just wouldn't sign up for it, or would accept the trade-off of occasionally being stopped.

I don't see the need to charge for false alarms. I imagine one purpose to be that if the police see a car that they have suspicions of having been taken by a joy-rider but which isn't being driven illegally, this sticker gives them permission to stop the car and check whether the occupants are authorized by the owner. Without it, they might not be able to catch joy-riders as easily since the car probably won't be reported stolen until the following morning and they have to have a good reason for making a traffic stop.

Personally if I lived in an area where car theft was a major problem, I'd be *happy* to be stopped and have to prove my identity in unusual circumstances, if that reduced the chance of my car being taken by joy-riders.

Mike SherwoodOctober 16, 2006 9:29 AM

I'm surprised to see so many negative responses to a security measure with very little cost.

The police are full time employees, getting paid the same whether they're looking for suspicious activity or talking to someone whose car isn't expected to be out that time of day(which by itself counts as suspicious activity). Stickers cost very little when made in quantity.

A database of plates would only be useful if someone were to enter all of the plates as cars passed by. I'm not sure if this is suggesting far more data entry drones or supporting automated license plate scanning. Either way, it seems like this would be fabulously expensive with little potential benefit. The obvious way to exploit a database lookup is to take a known not tagged plate and put it on the stolen car. It also wouldn't be hard to figure out where the scanning was happening and avoid those places. Expanding the scope from scanning and checking license plates to comparing the make, model and color of the car at the same time would be expensive. Also, no matter how much of this were computerized (which would be pretty expensive), it would also require that police be sitting where the scanning is happening to go chase anyone who gets tagged.

Why would anyone go through the effort of filling out false applications to try to sabotage the system by tagging random cars? That seems like a lot of work with no payoff for the person doing the work. It seems like the most effective way to get around the stickers is get some and test which solvents take them off.

Given a problem (high auto theft rates), people want a solution (even if it's psychosomatic) that doesn't cost much money (increasing taxes 1 percent to pay for the database and associated infrastructure would never pass a vote) and is easy(like a sticker). If the demographics of the victims change, that's probably an acceptable result. As callous as that may sound, how many people who work the graveyard shift can lobby to change laws or create policies to be more accommodating to them, compared with the number of people who work between 5am-1am?

Arturo QuirantesOctober 16, 2006 9:36 AM

The DDOS attack is here obvious: just stick as many cars as you can, till the police gets fed up.

JimOctober 16, 2006 9:43 AM

@Bruce, If I drive at night with a sticker why should I be fined? Its not my fault! I like Mike Sherwood's points

C GomezOctober 16, 2006 9:49 AM

People would be better off investing in other systems.

I mean, sure put the sticker on your car... but as part of the public service the police should also demonstrate just how little that does to protect the car. It's an opportunity to educate what you can do to protect your car.

I guess that's just assuming people are blatantly outright stupid. They hopefully realize they aren't doing much of anything.

Andre LePlumeOctober 16, 2006 10:00 AM

It'd be fun to get one of these stickers and slap it on the bumper of somebody you don't like who works the night shift.

AndrewOctober 16, 2006 10:07 AM

A few law enforcement agencies in Southern California were pushing parents to put these on their cars and their teenager's cars.

I didn't buy the theory that a parent who couldn't control the car keys could correct the lack of supervision with a sticker. However, some of the counters (bigger sticker, etc) are impractical for someone who is illicitly borrowing the car rather than outright purloining it.

TanukiOctober 16, 2006 10:21 AM

A slightly more sensible scheme has operated in parts of the UK for some years: an "Agewatch" thing where vehicles carry stickers saying in effect 'this vehicle should not be driven by anyone aged under 25'.

Given that casual car-theft is predominantly an activity undertaken by the young, I can kinda see how this scheme could work.

It fails, however, because here in the UK traffic-policing has become all-but nonexistent since the introduction of speed-cameras. Drive unlicensed, dangerously, uninsured and in a stolen vehicle all you like - as long as you don't exceed the speed limit the police won't bother you.

Stephanie JonesOctober 16, 2006 10:44 AM

@Mike Sherwood:

Your claims about the prohibitive cost of automated number plate scanning are wrong.

The technology exists. It is not hugely expensive and is quickly becoming cheaper. It is beginning to be fitted to English traffic patrol cars along with automatic database scans for road tax, insurance and MOT violations on the recognised plates.

The equipment in recent cars can automatically scan the plates of other vehicles and give the officers in the car an immediate alert if the vehicle is lost, stolen, registered to an uninsured driver etc, etc.

CJOctober 16, 2006 10:56 AM

@Mike Sherwood:

Sure, I don't think a criminal is going to carry out a DoS attack by filling out forms and attaching stickers to hundreds of cars. But the nuisance potential is there - annoy your neighbour too often, get a sticker on your car to annoy you.

What I see potential for is the price of insurance going up for those who don't register... as mentioned, it's just shifting victims to those who do (or might) drive at night, and so they must be a higher risk, right? (or so the insurance companies would argue...)

JohnJOctober 16, 2006 11:08 AM

Comments:

- Is the goal of this measure to catch car thieves or to deter them from stealing in the first place? As it stands it is not a deterrent as it simply shifts the target. Just like cars equipped with The Club: The Club can be defeated but the extra time it takes will generally cause a thief to move on to another target.

- I mitigate this risk by parking in a garage.

- I'm surprised no one has raised the issue of the State building a database that essentially knows where some of it's citizens are at certain times of the day.

- If we are to accept such a technology, why not tie it to someting that cars might already have, namely electronic toll collection (ETC) devices. Those who opt for the service can register the device and state which window(s) of time they are not likely to be driving. This can now vary from person to person so the graveyard shifter can put in 9AM-4PM. Equip the squad car with a short-range ETC reader that uses cellular data to access the remote database.

This adds cost since squad cars have to be equipped but it also reduces officer overhead as they don't have to be actively looking for tags. It also means the database is an extension of an existing database that already has maintenance rules & admin staff; there should be little in the way of additional administrative overhead.

Of course, thieves would know about this so the ETC devices should be made more difficult to remove than they currently are (my ETC is velcroed to the windshield).

GlennOctober 16, 2006 11:10 AM

@Tanuki:

> ...[H]ere in the UK traffic-policing has become all-but nonexistent since the introduction of
> speed-cameras.

Thank you! I wondered about that after I spent 3 weeks driving the UK and never saw a traffic police officer. Do you perceive any change in the level of compliance with traffic laws?

DavidOctober 16, 2006 11:17 AM

It's easy to defeat by simply placing a new decal on top, or removing the decal.

What about car thefts that occur in the middle of the day? Car-jacking and theft are not "night only" crimes.

The police don't really put any effort into car thefts anyway. Most car thieves get very light penalties, which is why car theft is so common.

One unintended consequence will be high speed, nightime car chases as joy riders and other non-organized car thieves try to escape being pulled over.

Arturo QuirantesOctober 16, 2006 11:23 AM

Next, parents will consider electronic tagging of their children to make sure they are home before 10 PM. You could even use your kid's own GSM-equipped phone to send an SMS to the cops: "Beep, I am not allowed to go partying past midnight, please reporte me to the police."

VincentOctober 16, 2006 11:41 AM

Bruce, I think you miss the point that the program already charges car owners a small fine -- the inconvenience of being pulled over and questioned for every false alarm!

Rob PriorOctober 16, 2006 11:48 AM

As just pointed out by Darryl (crap, missed it by one post...), ICBC has the same program in British Columbia, Canada. It's called Combat Auto Theft (CAT) and is apparently a very successful program.

Some comments on previous comments:

Re: the simple solution of just covering or removing the sticker: I think you'll find that the IQ of the average car thief isn't high enough to think about looking for a CAT sticker in the first place. They're more interested in getting in fast, and getting away fast. Who cares what's on the window? You could probably put a large sticker that says "this car is stolen, please pull it over" and they wouldn't see it.

Re: DDOS attack with lots of stickers. This sounds like a good countermeasure, but unfortunately it falls down in a number of ways: One, it requires that the thieves have, or make, a quantity of stickers. Two, that they organize enough that they can distribute them and SPAM the cars. Three (and this comes back to the previous point), the thieves just aren't that smart. I doubt that any of them know what a DDOS attack is, nor would they make the connection between overloading a network and overloading the police force.

Maybe I underestimate the criminal element. But I doubt it.

What we really need is a direct incentive to the end user to participate in one of these programs. Insurance rebates or discounts, for example, even if only a token amount, would boost participation quite a bit.

Dom De VittoOctober 16, 2006 12:40 PM

Fact: Did you know that steering-wheel devices don't reduce car crime? They just move it to the next car down the street.

Tracking devices, and effective local police processes, actually prevent crime, because a thief won't take the risk - they will just move town instead.

Not perfect, but better.

In the UK, quite a few corporate vans have on the back 'This vehicle is not to be used between 7pm and 7am. If it is, it may be stolen.' That gives the police reasonable grounds to stop it between those hours, check ID etc. This doesn't require any extra database, or subsequent lookups.

Free the Oxygen RadicalsOctober 16, 2006 1:13 PM

I think most antitheft devices (alarms on houses and cars, strong doors with good locks, dogs, The Club) tend to push the crime down to the next person. But if enough people use them, it also becomes harder to make a living as a criminal, and pushes some criminals into other activities. (Probably other crimes, rather than kicking their meth habit and getting a job.)

Things like Lojack and alarms and surveilance cameras and this sticker have the added benefit that they increase the chances of criminals getting caught. This does more good if the criminals go to jail for a long time than if they get a couple weekends' community service or something, but it probably is a net benefit to society.

bobOctober 16, 2006 1:15 PM

Its not a false alarm. Its not a "you must look me up and pull me over" for the cops". Its a "this car doesnt normally drive at night, so if you see this sticker then this is a probable cause if you are interested in one".

O'BrienOctober 16, 2006 1:34 PM

For Immediate Release

Due to the overwhelming popularity and success of the AATA program to combat automobile theft, the program has now been extended to universal coverage. At no charge to automobile owners, all vehicles will now be provided with AATA protection. Automobile owners are not required to take any action to activate this protection. The complete list of eligible owners has been provided by the Department of Motor Vehicles directly to all law enforcement agencies.

Furthermore, beginning in 2007 a supplimentary program will be introduced. Any vehicle seen by law enforcement more than 5 miles from the owner's address, except during business and commuting hours will also be covered by the AATA theft-protection.

piOctober 16, 2006 2:48 PM

is there any evidence that this has worked?

i think it's a terrible idea. all criminals have to do is cover up the sticker or remove it.

how much money went into developing this program? it seems like such a waste.

what happens if you need to rush a loved one to the emergency room at 3am then you get pulled over because of your decal and your loved one dies. could happen, and how much would the ensuing lawseuit cost the county?

Andy VaughtOctober 16, 2006 3:20 PM

The "external cost" isn't quite the same as a false burglar alarm. An officer isn't (well, shouldn't) going to let the traffic sticker or the license plate being in the database deter him/her from something more serious. The only mode where they are checking license plates is the "not doing anything else" mode.

Some people think that it is only the sticker that they look for. In Arizona, at least, the "sticker" is also a flag in the motor vehicles database that gets queried by a laptop in the cruiser via packet radio. I never asked about encryption or authentication on the link, but I hope that someone did the right thing.

AlOctober 16, 2006 3:21 PM

This is dumb.

Cars are tools for emergencies. I can just imagine someone with a medical or other personal emergency driving their car during "disallowed" hours having real problems as a result of having to deal with police.

Dumb, dumb, dumb.

Rob MayfieldOctober 16, 2006 3:40 PM

@Al - so Sgt Plod pulls you over and see's your wife in the passenger seat in labour, I think you'd get the best (and safest) escort to hospital money can buy ...

AlanOctober 16, 2006 4:05 PM

Any program that is described as "worth any cost" is usually should not be implemented at any cost.

Rob MayfieldOctober 16, 2006 4:26 PM

All the system really 'needs' is to be linked to an automated license plate scanning system:

License-Plate Scanning by Helicopter
http://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2005/04/...

City Cops' Plate Scanner is a License to Snoop
http://www.schneier.com/essay-057.html

I've read elsewhere about fixed and relocatable cameras performing a similar role, wireless links to base etc.

Of course the potential for linking these systems to delay the need for human intervention in any given 'situation' is obvious, but its worrying to consider the ramifications including the many potential harebrained schemes that might be devised by 'experts' to ascertain when vehicles are authorised by their owner to be in use and to extend the systems use for other purposes. (consider that this doesnt need to be restricted to certain times - one can imagine where road tax is charged based on the window of access or trips authorised, authorisations to be mobile made 'per journey' and being fined for unauthorised but legitimate trips). Add some RFID, link it to your license, remote door lock and ignition kill, phone jamming ... sounds great, I cant wait ...

@Al, so theres the flipside - you pass a fixed camera on your way to taking your wife (who's in labour remember) to hospital. It detects you havent paid your $39.95 trip authorisation fee and signals your car to halt and lock the doors. It adds your details and location to the queue of 29 other such cases that are pending police attendance ... and you wait ... (the local jammer has killed your phone signal as well, so its too late to call up that ambulance you should have called in the first place ...)

AnonymousOctober 16, 2006 4:28 PM

If Phoenix has had this program for several years, and if it were even modestly successful, wouldn't Phoenix's auto theft rates be falling? But they aren't, are they?

So is that because the program is ineffective, or because it IS effective, but only at pushing thieves to steal a different car.

DavidOctober 16, 2006 4:51 PM

This scheme started in parts of Great Britain at least 15 years ago and has proved very succesful. I understand the concerns of many of the posters here, but this does work and has a proven track record of reducing car crime.

KenOctober 16, 2006 5:10 PM

This same program was instituted in NYC in the early 80's. Apparently no more than a PR effort, it was just ignored by the police (i.e. the police mostly didn't bother pulling anyone over).

You can still see the stickers on the rear side windows of a lot of older cars (yellow police-badge-like insignia).

Security effect: False sense of security provided to car owners?

DriverOctober 16, 2006 6:09 PM

Personally, I'm a bit wary of giving the police more powers to stop drivers for no other reason than "you shouldn't be doing that".
Today, you may opt into the scheme with conditions about driving hours.
Tomorrow, the police may advise you driving hours they will *permit* you - for the greater good and all that you understand ...
I would really like to know why car theft crime is so bad in Prescott Valley. It seems to me that the starting point for reducing the crime should be understanding why it is so high.
Here is a report that claims passive immobilisers are the best available answer at the moment:
http://www.transalt.org/info/caralarms/report.pdf
The report also claims that most car theft is carried out buy organised criminals - is Prescott Valey an affluent area? Lots of nice cars that might attract professional thieves?
My own car is a bit old so once I have fitted my strong steering wheel lock (to deter joyriding kids) I feel quite safe from theft.

IMHO before asking the police to protect you, think about how you can take more responsibility for yourself.

erasmusOctober 16, 2006 7:20 PM

One very major benefit is addressing the "fear of crime".
So get a magic sticker and you can tick a box when the next crime survey comes round (its polled regularly here in UK).
Police, and government in turn, are happy because the report says the people are less afraid, even if the crime detection rate is unchanged.

Anon Y. MouseOctober 16, 2006 7:20 PM

Didn't BART (in the San Francisco Bay Area) have
something like this a few years ago? (May still
have it...)

Commuters who took BART put a sticker on their
car, which basically signalled that the car
shouldn't be seen being driven on the streets
from 8-5 M-F, because its owner was at work
and the car should be in a BART system parking
lot.

I suspect some of the problems mentioned here
(i.e., you take a day off from work and get
pulled over because police see the sticker)
would be even more of an issue with this scheme.

nzrussOctober 16, 2006 8:35 PM

A similar system was introduced to New Zealand a few years ago. You could place a "25" sticker on your rear window, and the cop's would have reason to pull the car over if they saw anyone 'who looked' under 25 driving it.

Of course people came up with all reasons why the idea is a bad thing, and were afraid it wouldn't stop at 'age' - next was 'sex and race' etc.

Ultimately programs like this just gives the cop a valid reason to stop your car after midnight when nothing else appears out of the ordinary.

Unless of course the the police in America can legally stop you for no reason what-so-ever.

Anon Y. MouseOctober 17, 2006 1:29 AM

@nzruss:

"Unless of course the the police in America can legally stop you for no reason what-so-ever."


In theory, American law enforcement officers can't make a traffic stop for no reason.

In practice, the police can pull you over for any reason or no reason at all.

"Your taillight was out, sir."

"My taillight is working perfectly."

"Perhaps there is a loose connection. It wasn't lit when I pulled you over."

There is the infamous DWB - Driving While Black. As teenagers, me and my cohorts
frequently experienced DWY - Driving While Young.

In a traffic safety school a few years back, the instructor -- a local traffic officer --
stated he could find a reason to pull a car over after following them for only two to
three miles.

Kind of wandering off-topic, but there's lots of other LEO/driving-related shennanigans
at:

http://www.thenewspaper.com/

John DaviesOctober 17, 2006 2:44 AM

"Thank you! I wondered about that after I spent 3 weeks driving the UK and never saw a traffic police officer. Do you perceive any change in the level of compliance with traffic laws?"

Only that most people slow down past known speed cameras, then speed up again. That would be other people you understand, not me :)

Oh, and most sat-nav systems now have built in speed camera location warning capability.

Marek VitekOctober 17, 2006 3:34 AM

Hey, this scheme is not new. It is in operation here in Czech republic since 2000. Here is a link to news from ministry of interior (sorry in czech).
http://www.mvcr.cz/prevence/zpravy/2000/...
As I know this initiative it is meant as getting more probability of have your car stopped during night. BTW: it is a small nuber of cars having this sticker on its window. And majority of them are older cars that are being driven in the night very occasionaly.

J YarwoodOctober 17, 2006 12:25 PM

"This scheme started in parts of Great Britain at least 15 years ago and has proved very succesful. I understand the concerns of many of the posters here, but this does work and has a proven track record of reducing car crime."

Huh. I can tell you for nothing that me and my colleagues here in West Mercia Police have better f*****g things to do than chase after cars with silly stickers in. Theres enough work for us with villans and things without this kind of leftist politically correct bull believe me.

CooneyOctober 17, 2006 7:53 PM

> Oh, and most sat-nav systems now have built in speed camera location warning capability.

Finally, a reason for a GPS NAV system!

securityOctober 17, 2006 10:50 PM

If you do a Google Search for "Watch Your Car Program" you will find the many towns that are already registered in the progra. There are quite a few

In theory it the sticker is placed inside the car window - thieves, might not have something immediately handy to cover it from the outside - which could also, in theory bring suspicion if it was obvious enough to be seen....so, they might chose another car.

NemoOctober 18, 2006 10:32 AM

Perhaps it would be more efficient to just print up stickers that said "Please steal the next car over" and had a big arrow?

PeteOctober 18, 2006 12:31 PM

The U.S. state of Texas has had a program like this for quite some time, including a similar sticker for cars crossing the border into Mexico. The program web site (at http://records.txdps.state.tx.us/heat/ ) doesn't offer program performance statistics. It does, however, indicate that "more vehicles are stolen between 1:00 a.m. and 5:00 a.m. than any other time."

mozOctober 18, 2006 3:02 PM

Apart from general statements ("it was really dead successful yeah") nobody has actually addressed the claim that this kind of scheme increases crime by telling criminals which cars are safe to steal since they won't be stopped (those without a sticker).

Could one of the people claiming that the scheme works, please point to hard statistics about an actual reduction in crime level please.

GaryOctober 18, 2006 5:56 PM

First off, let me just comment that as someone who has worked nightshifts and had to drive home on Friday, Saturday or Sunday nights at any time between midnight and 6AM that the police will pull you over for no reason whatsoever. It appears they have a better shot at finding drunk drivers or some other illicit activity going on at that time of night, and very few people who are legitimately out doing their business complain about such treatment, so they continue to get away with this kind of behavior. Even when the officers are reported there are very few repercussions for their activities in my personal experience. In fact, if one faces a potentially nasty experience by complaining about this sort of thing to the supervisors.... I was pulled over regularly for several years when I worked nights. So many times, in fact, that I've lost count well into the double digits.

All that said, this particular program is redundant in addition to being ineffective. Any car thief is going to get around it in a matter of seconds. What's worse, it'll actually backfire more often than work effectively. Imagine someone trying to get to the ER during the hours when they can be pulled over at any time.... "Sorry, officer, I know I'm not supposed to drive at this time of night, but I'm in the middle of a coronary infarction...."

GaryOctober 18, 2006 5:58 PM

First off, let me just comment that as someone who has worked nightshifts and had to drive home on Friday, Saturday or Sunday nights at any time between midnight and 6AM that the police will pull you over for no reason whatsoever. It appears they have a better shot at finding drunk drivers or some other illicit activity going on at that time of night, and very few people who are legitimately out doing their business complain about such treatment, so they continue to get away with this kind of behavior. Even when the officers are reported there are very few repercussions for their activities in my personal experience. In fact, if one faces a potentially nasty experience by complaining about this sort of thing to the supervisors.... I was pulled over regularly for several years when I worked nights. So many times, in fact, that I've lost count well into the double digits.

All that said, this particular program is redundant in addition to being ineffective. Any car thief is going to get around it in a matter of seconds. What's worse, it'll actually backfire more often than work effectively. Imagine someone trying to get to the ER during the hours when they can be pulled over at any time.... "Sorry, officer, I know I'm not supposed to drive at this time of night, but I'm in the middle of a coronary infarction...."

GordOctober 19, 2006 11:37 PM

The CAT program in BC was a failure as far as I know. I have a few friends who are cops, and they quit pulling those cars after a few times of having a driver go ape shit on them because they "could not see the driver was obviously not a car thief". Why subject yourself to that kind of grief?

Rob NapierNovember 15, 2006 11:30 AM

If the town charged car owners a fine for each
false alarm, I would have no problems with this program.

In practice this program already has such a fine. It's the inconvenience of being pulled over. There's no particular reason to institute an additional fine unless the false alarms become a problem (as they have with the home burglar alarms you mentioned).

Only time will tell if this is actually a useful program, but I suspect it will turn out to have a small benefit to the owner ("please steal someone else's car") for a fairly small cost to the police force. Since this program only moves the crime around, though (as you've mentioned in several other contexts), I doubt the police will be willing to spend that small cost indefinitely, since it will unlikely have any overall impact on crime.

TaxvictimNovember 15, 2006 8:29 PM

WTG, O'Brien. You're the only one who gets it.

What's next? Stickers for white car owners? "Stop my car if a Negro is behind the wheel."

Does no one else see the danger to political liberty here? After you enroll in the Arizona program, you cannot withdraw consent to be stopped by simply removing the stickers; you have to withdraw your consent in writing. Anytime you drive after 1 a.m., you are giving consent to every cop to stop you.

Eventually, insurance commissioners and insurance companies will get in on the act, and these stickers will become practically mandatory unless you are willing to pay extraordinary premiums. Finally, the stickers could become so prevalent that, if the cops see a car without stickers, they will assume the car is stolen and that the thieves scraped off the stickers. Hence, cops will have probable cause to stop you even if you are not in the program precisely because you have no stickers on your car. In other words, your refusal to give consent to search will become the basis for probable cause to search.

Don't laugh. Cops in Raleigh caught a thief after they pulled him over "because he was going the speed limit, which was suspicious on that road."

Luke DerekMay 26, 2007 11:33 PM

I'm amazed that no one has mentioned the voluntary violation of civil rights. In the USA, the police have to have cause to pull over a car. The police _hate_ this because they "know" who the criminals are by looking at them (racial, age profiling, grungy, beat-up car). The way we deter this is by letting the guilty go free when the Police didn't follow proper procedure. Putting this sticker on your car to make you "safer" gives police permission to violate your civil rights (interrogate you, search your car, search your person) any time you are out late without cause. Of course police are promoting it.

ChrisNovember 26, 2007 1:44 AM

Hey I have a 2004 eclipse and the heat works fine untill I come to a stop and then it just blows outside air in. Its cold out now and I dont know what the problem would be. I would really like to get this fixed for the winter, Thanks

Chris

MellymelApril 1, 2008 11:59 PM

Wow this is amazing...They should do this to all States and If youre not doin any illegal thing it should be no problem this a good a thing but then again safety cost time and money

Leave a comment

Allowed HTML: <a href="URL"> • <em> <cite> <i> • <strong> <b> • <sub> <sup> • <ul> <ol> <li> • <blockquote> <pre>

Photo of Bruce Schneier by Per Ervland.

Schneier on Security is a personal website. Opinions expressed are not necessarily those of Co3 Systems, Inc..