, Newburyport, MA

October 9, 2012

Police offer VIN etching on car windows

By Dave Rogers Staff Writer
Newburyport Daily News

---- — AMESBURY — When a thief is looking to rip off a car, there are certain things owners can do to make their vehicles less of a target: make sure the car is locked, don’t leave valuables or cash in plain sight or install an alarm.

But thanks to the Amesbury Police Department and the Governor’s Auto Theft Strike Force, owners can employ another method that not only will help deter thieves but also knock a few bucks off their insurance rates.

On Saturday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., the School Street police department is hosting the state’s strike force as it etches vehicle identification numbers on all car windows. The chemical etching program actually burns the number into the windows using a mild acid that won’t devalue the automobile.

In fact, according to a local insurance company, window etching can knock a comprehensive insurance rate down by as much as 15 percent and a minimum of 5 percent. The average vehicle owner would see a savings about of $20 if a company offers a 5 percent discount. The program costs $10 (cash only) and helps defray part of the costs incurred by the state.

Thomas Hanshaw, the Amesbury Police Department’s crime prevention office, said by etching VIN numbers on all windows, thieves know it will make cars easier to trace by law enforcement agencies.

Asked if the etchings could affect sight lines while driving, Hanshaw said they are visible from certain angles but wouldn’t make it harder for motorists to drive.

“It doesn’t interfere with sight at all,” Hanshaw said.

Typically, the etchings are made in the lower right-hand corners of windows. The process takes about 10 minutes and is open to all, including non-residents. Appointments aren’t necessary but owners must produce a valid car registration. Should it rain on Saturday, the etchings will done inside the station’s garage, which could slow down the process since the car must be completely dry before the acid is applied, according to Hanshaw.

Hanshaw added the program has been very popular in years past, the last time being roughly eight years ago. Amesbury in general doesn’t have many cars stolen each year — about a half dozen reported annually. But Hanshaw said car thefts are far greater problems in nearby communities such as Haverhill and Lawrence, making the clinic a worthwhile trip for car owners in those cities and other communities.

For more information about the program, contact Hanshaw at 978-3488-1217 or email him at: To contact the Governor’s Auto Theft Strike Force, call 1-800-HOT-AUTO.