By Sharna Johnson: CNJ staff writer
Vehicle theft reports in Clovis are on the rise, but officials say most of the cases turn out to be misunderstandings.
With a jump of 44 percent in 2005 from 2004, the numbers seem startling at first glance. But Lt. James Schoeffel, Clovis Police Department public information officer, said many cases turn out to be misunderstandings where the vehicle hasn’t actually been stolen but taken by a friend or family member.
Often the autos turn up in a matter of days, according to Schoeffel. Police are not seeing organized or consistent thefts such as those associated with theft rings or chop shops, he said.
Joy riding, civil disputes, repossessions and miscommunications are the primary reasons for reported auto thefts, Schoeffel said. In a joy-riding case, a car is often taken by someone who drives it around and then parks and abandons the vehicle. Other reasons for reports might be a teenager who takes a car without permission or a family member borrows a car without asking.
If officers are able to see immediately a vehicle theft is stemming from a civil matter, they will refer people to the appropriate court to file a civil case, Schoeffel said.
In 2005, an average of one motor vehicle theft was reported every two days in Clovis, or 150 total, according to the police department’s annual report.
Clovis statistics fall in line with those of other New Mexico towns comparable in size.
Linda Yurkovich, records clerk for the Roswell Police Department, said in 2005 the community had 130 auto thefts.
“Some months are higher than others,” she said, agreeing the majority stem from misunderstandings, disputes or are taken for joy rides and later recovered.
Hobbs, like Clovis, experienced a 12 percent increase in 2005, boosting its total from 59 to 66.
“I don’t think there’s a lot that are going into chop shops or across the border. They’re not related to car theft rings where they’re stealing multiple cars. We don’t see a lot of that around,” said Commander Donnie Graham.
Barbara Brian, an agent with Clovis Insurance Center, said she doesn’t hear about auto theft often. In the last year, only one theft claim was filed with her office and the vehicle was recovered, she said.
“We just don’t have that happen very often,” she said.
She pointed out coverage types affect the numbers she sees because in order for a theft claim to be filed, a customer must have comprehensive coverage.
“If they don’t have that kind of insurance coverage, they won’t report it,” she said.