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Auto TheftPolice Department SBPD

The Auto Theft section is part of the Special Investigations division. A detective is assigned full-time to the investigation of auto thefts and related crimes.

Have Information? Call Detective Hill at 897-2326 or email

Anonymous Information: 569-COPS  

Report an Auto Theft by Calling 911

Vehicle thefts should be reported as soon as possible. However, before the vehicle can be listed as stolen, you must have your vehicle's license plate number and/or the vehicle identification number (sometimes called VIN). The police department may be able to assist you in accessing your license plate number.

By making a report it allows the needed information about your vehicle to be directly entered into the police department's computer system. This enables officers to immediately identify your vehicle as being stolen.

The report may be made by the victim at the police department or an officer can be sent to the victim's location, whichever is more practical.

Some questions asked by Police personnel:

  1. License plate number and state of registration or name and city on registration (if the plate number is unknown)
  2. Description of the vehicle: color, year, make, model, etc.
  3. Where was the vehicle parked?
  4. Does anyone else have permission to drive the vehicle?

If you recover your vehicle, you must not touch or move your vehicle in order to preserve possible evidence. You should call to report the recovery, because if you do not, your car will continue to be listed as stolen and you may be stopped by the police at gun point.

Avoiding Auto Theft

When Entering Your Vehicle & Driving

  1. Lock your car.
  2. Take your keys.
  3. Never hide a spare key on the vehicle.
  4. Roll up windows completely.
  5. Remove keys from ignition.
  6. Have your key ready to enter the vehicle, and check around and inside before getting in the car!!!!
  7. Drive with doors locked and windows up.
  8. When pulling up behind a vehicle, leave enough space in front of you for an emergency exit.
  9. Be aware of foot traffic near curbside lanes, and drive in the center lane if uncomfortable.

When Parking Your Vehicle & Exiting

  1. Turn off the ignition and TAKE the keys with you.
  2. Park in a well-lighted, attended lot or area if possible.
  3. If lot or area is attended, leave attendant only the ignition/door key.
  4. Park as close as possible to an open business.
  5. Do not leave valuables in distinct view.
  6. Completely close doors and windows and use the locks.
  7. Turn your wheels to the side to make it harder to tow.
  8. Be cautious of surrounding obstructions and natural barriers that may be concealing a thief.

When at Home

  1. If you have a garage, use it.
  2. Lock your garage door.
  3. When going out of town, if possible, remove the distributor cap or coil wire.
  4. Back your car into the driveway. If you drive forward into the driveway, a car thief could raise the hood to hot wire the car, and it would appear to the neighbors that you were just working on the car.
  5. Never leave your car running while it is unattended.
  6. Always set the emergency brake.
  7. Drop business cards or address labels inside doors to assist with vehicle identification.

Invest in Vehicle Protection When Possible

  1. Vehicle registration tab theft is a common occurrence in Santa Barbara. You can prevent this by removing the old tab before applying the new year tab. And, by scoring the new tab with a razor blade after applying the tab.
  2. Ignition Kill Switch - Toggle switch spliced into ignition that disables vehicle when "off."
  3. Fuel Kill Switch - Switch spliced into fuel system wiring that halts fuel supply when "off."
  4. Steering Wheel Lock - Prevents steering wheel from turning.
  5. Gearshift Lock - Locks gearshift in place, disables shifting transmission.
  6. Tire/Wheel Locks - Tool wraps around tire/wheel, immobilizes vehicle.
  7. Hood Locks - Prevents access to battery and other car components.
  8. Steering Column Collar - Protects entry to ignition through column.
  9. Electronic Alarms - Ones with kill switches are most effective.
  10. Vehicle Tracking Systems - Transmitter in car enables police to track car electronically.
Last Updated: Dec 22, 2014