NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Local News

January 1, 2013

Auto theft strike force disbanded

Statewide: Claims dropped 89 percent from 1987 to 2011

(Continued)

Other statewide state police detective units will investigate auto theft, according to Procopio.

Johnston, of the Insurance Fraud Bureau, said it is too soon to tell whether the closing of the strike force units — particularly the three-man unit that’s been working in Lawrence — will lead to more stolen cars, while causing insurance premiums to soar.

“In all honesty, if the local police departments stay involved dealing with this on an ongoing basis, I wouldn’t expect to see a measurable change in the theft rate, or in premiums,” Johnston said.

But the shutdown of the strike force could have an impact in communities like Lawrence, where personnel cuts reduced or even eliminated the pressure on auto theft.

“The state police in general have been great supporters of the city of Lawrence,” Lawrence police Chief John Romero said. “Especially in the last couple of years when we didn’t have an auto theft unit and we relied on them (the strike force).”

When the Lawrence Police Department’s special operation unit was reinstated earlier this year, officers were assigned to the department’s own auto theft unit, which collaborated efforts with the strike force.

Romero declined to speculate what kind of impact the elimination of the strike force would have on Lawrence.

“It’s not my place to comment on their decision,” Romero said of the strike force shutdown. But I appreciate their help as well as all the help we got from state police over the years. We have a very good relationship with them and they work very well in Lawrence. They have always been there for us when we needed them,” the chief said.

It took years before Lawrence police, aided by the strike force, put a dent in the city’s astronomical stolen car problem. A year before Dukakis created the strike force, the National Auto Theft Bureau ranked the city 10th in the nation on a per capita basis in stolen cars.

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