Older-model vehicles targeted on 'Most Stolen Cars' list

HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - It's a crime that police say happens often in Horry County, and now a new Top 10 list is suggesting why criminals across the nation are more apt to stealing older-model vehicles.

Released by the National Crime Bureau, the information suggests the parts in older-model vehicles did not vastly change throughout the 1990s, making it easier for a part made in 1993 to be used in a 1997-model vehicle.

The similarity in design throughout the decade, according to the report, has made it easier for a person to sell the parts to a salvage company and get cold-hard cash for the parts.

It's a crime Clay Thomas, of Don's Car Crushing in Conway, says happens often. He says all it takes is one warning sign to tip off his employees to a potential illegal deal: no proof of ownership.

"When ask for [the title] and they start backing up and asking, 'Well, what if I don't have anything?'" he said. "Well, everyone has something that shows they own a vehicle."

But in South Carolina, according to Thomas, a person does not need to have a title to salvage parts to a vehicle. He says to avoid any liability issues that could cost his company big dollars, he requires proof of ownership before removing parts from a car.

Thomas says catalytic converters and parts to cars made in the 1990s are the easiest way for criminals to make a quick buck off an old ride.

That's why the National Crime Bureau says the 1994 Honda Accord, 1995 Honda Civic and 1991 Toyota Camry are among the nation's top stolen vehicles. Not only do the cars pack transferable parts, they also lack strong anti-theft systems.

Other cars making the Top 10 list include:

10. 2009 Toyota Corolla
9. 2002 Ford Explorer
8. 1994 Acura Integra
7. 1994 Chevrolet Pickup
6. 2000 Dodge Caravan
5. 2004 Dodge Ram Pickup
4. 1997 Ford F-150

Sgt. Robert Kegler, of the Horry County Police Department, says car owners can get around a lack of security by installing a separate security system into the car or by purchasing a club. He adds drivers can also better protect their car by parking smart.

"People who are stealing cars - they don't want to make a lot of noise," he explained. "The closer your vehicle is to your home, the more likely you are to hear it if someone attempts to steal it."

The FBI says each year, 52.7 percent of cars stolen across the country do not make it back to their owners.

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