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Moving targets: Vehicle thefts rise

A 75 percent increase in vehicle thefts through the first 51/2 months of 2014 compared with the same span last year has caught the attention of Medford police and victims of the trend such as Betsy and Wynn Wilson.

The Wilsons' 2013 white Toyota Tacoma pickup was stolen early in the morning of May 16 from their driveway in the 100 block of White Oak Drive, making it the 93rd vehicle stolen in Medford so far this year, police records show. At this time last year, 53 had been stolen.

Police suspect Jonathan Paul McDonald, 25, not only stole the Wilsons' Tacoma, but burglarized their home, stealing Betsy Wilson's purse — and with it the pickup's keys — two days before.

Police recovered the vehicle abandoned in a roadside ditch outside Talent on Monday, but are still trying to track down McDonald, who frequents the Medford area, according to a news release from the Medford Police Department,

"That's pretty rare. It was a pretty brazen theft," said MPD Sgt. Geoff Kirkpatrick.

Since 2012, the MPD has a 77 percent recovery rate for stolen vehicles, records show.

Kirkpatrick said police don't see many vehicles stolen for parts in Medford.

"Typically, when we recover a stolen car, it's been left at the location where the suspect ran out of gas or they left it at their destination," he said. "They're are stolen typically for transportation."

Regardless of the reason, the crime hits its victims hard.

"It's all been really traumatic," Betsy Wilson said. "We've lived here for 15 years. ... I feel dumb, but I do think it could happen to anybody."

She said the burglar entered their house through the garage door, which was mistakenly left open, allowing access to the home through an unlocked door inside the garage.

Known to Medford police as Beat 3, the residential area where the Wilsons live — bordered by Hillcrest Road, East Barnett Road, Interstate 5 and extending east to below Roxy Ann Peak — had the fewest vehicle thefts in Medford last year and so far this year, police records show.

But no area is safe. While only 14 vehicles were stolen from the area in 2013 and just six so far this year, 24 were reported stolen in 2012.

"It's really a citywide problem," Kirkpatrick said.

This year's uptick in theft, he said, "is alarming simply based on the statistic, but I think it's difficult to say it's some sort of epidemic.

"It's definitely concerning to us when we see a rash of a specific crime like this. We are very aware of it ... our guys and gals they are very aware."

In west Medford — encompassed by beats 4 and 5 and excluding the downtown area — nearly 40 vehicles have been stolen so far this year, records show.

In 2013 and 2012, nearly 60 vehicles were stolen in west Medford each year, records show.

In northwest Medford's Beat 6, west of Interstate 5 between Jackson Street and Central Point, 17 vehicles have been stolen in 2014, records show.

In 2013 and 2012, 36 and 41 vehicles, respectively, were reported stolen in the northwest Medford area, police records show.

"We know where the high call volume is and we place a specific number of officers in specific beats," Kirkpatrick said "Our patrol officers are very organized on where they need to patrol."

The most stolen make of vehicle in Medford since 2012 is Honda, with 82 reported stolen, records show. Rounding off the top five: 61 Fords, 42 Chevrolets, 41 Dodges and 40 Toyotas have been reported stolen since 2012, records show.

Kirkpatrick said Hondas are targeted more than other vehicles because — with the right know-how — early- and mid-1990s Hondas are easy to start without a key.

"The way that they were manufactured was not with preventing theft in mind. ... There is an ease to starting those cars versus the ease of starting a different manufacture's," he said. "Another part of stealing a white Honda Accord is that there are thousands of them out there."

To prevent vehicle theft, Kirkpatrick said, owners should always be aware of where their keys are, lock the doors, utilize security alarms and steering wheel locks and be cautious of lending out their vehicles.

"In many cases, somebody lends it to somebody else and it's never returned, or they lend it to an acquaintance and it's never returned, so they report it stolen."

Reach reporter Sam Wheeler at 541-776-4471 or swheeler@mailtribune.com. Follow him at www.twitter.com/swhlr.

Betsy Wilson's Medford home was broken into and her husband's truck stolen. Wynn Wilson's pickup was the 93rd vehicle stolen in Medford this year.