Spring 2010 Newsletter

Message from the Executive Director

In this issue, we highlight the ATPA's 2009 annual report, as well as welcome our newest staff member, Joseph Boyd.

The arrival of spring has ushered in warmer temperatures in Pennsylvania.  Just as the end of winter ushered in these warmer spring temperatures, the end of the calendar year offers the opportunity for us to share our continued success in fighting auto theft in the Commonwealth through our annual report to the Pennsylvania Legislature.  Preparing the recently published 2009 ATPA annual report, entitled “In Pursuit”, also gave us the opportunity to demonstrate the organized criminal element becoming increasingly involved in the crime of auto theft, as well as the geographically-expansive nature of auto theft.  We share many of the highlights and statistics in this newsletter, but a full electronic copy of the report can be viewed on our website,www.watchyourcar.org .

Our grantees and partners have continued their work fighting auto theft on the local and regional level, and their hard work and dedication is paying off.  2009 marked the highest one-year reduction in auto theft in state history, as well as exceeding a 60% reduction in auto theft rates in the Commonwealth since our inception in 1995. 

Spring is a season for renewal.  Leaves turn green, flowers bloom and wildlife emerges from hibernation.  For the ATPA, spring is also a time of renewal as we plan for our future partnerships and public awareness/prevention campaigns.  As we embark on our 15th year in existence, we are constantly striving to re-evaluate and re-invent how we combat and prevent auto theft inPennsylvania .  The crime of auto theft changes, and we must maintain pace with that change to fight it.

Our work is cut out for us, but it is also time for Pennsylvania motorists to step up to the plate.  This spring, do your part to encourage drivers to lock their cars and take their keys.   It may sound like second nature to do this, but we are finding far too many drivers who don’t take these simple steps to protect themselves from becoming victims of auto theft. Enjoy the spring season and all it has to offer!


Michelle Staton Signature

Michelle L. Staton, Executive Director

ATPA Releases 2009 Annual Report

In April 2010, the ATPA published their annual report for 2009.  The report, designed to highlight another year of a success as well as the organized and often far-reaching nature of auto theft, was entitled “In Pursuit”.  Each year, the ATPA uses the annual report as their official communication to the Pennsylvania law makers who enacted the legislation that created the organization. 

In 2009, the ATPA is able to celebrate the highest one-year reduction in auto thefts, a more than 20% decrease from 2008.  In addition, the reduction in auto theft in the Commonwealth since our inception has surpassed the 60% reduction mark!  This achievement is the direct result of the coordinated effort in Pennsylvania investigating, prosecuting and preventing theft.  The report contains valuable statistics that illuminate the issue of auto theft in Pennsylvania – number of individuals arrested and convicted, types of arrests and the value of recovered vehicles and parts.

The full annual report is available on our website, www.watchyourcar.org .  If you are interested in receiving a printed version of the report, please contact us at 717-591-7097.

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ATPA Welcomes Newest Staff Member

The ATPA believes that continuing the education and training of law enforcement professionals is one of the most important tools in combating vehicle theft. 

That is why we are proud to introduce Mr. Joseph Boyd, the ATPA's new training instructor.  Mr. Boyd joined the ATPA in January, after retiring from the PA State Police.  Joe brings an extensive array of experience to the effort.  His experience includes conducting and supervising patrol functions, criminal investigations, undercover operations; as well as, curriculum development and training. 

Joe began his law enforcement career with the Municipal Police Officers Education and Training Commission (MPOETC) and his duties included curriculum evaluation and development.  After graduating from the  State Police  Academy , Joe worked as a uniformed officer until he was promoted and subsequently assigned to supervise a criminal investigations unit.  Promotion with transfer resulted with Joe being assigned to the PSP  Academy where he served as the Basic Training Section Supervisor.  Joe also served as the Officer-in-Charge of the PSP Lewistown Station and supervised the PA State Police Auto Theft Task Force.  Prior to retirement, Joe served on the Command Staff at the PSP  Academy.

Joe will continue delivering the ATPA's comprehensive training curriculum at facilities throughoutPennsylvania .  The courses are offered free-of-charge to law enforcement professionals inPennsylvania .  Since the program’s inception in 2005, over 2,700 officers have participated.  Our goal is to conveniently provide training to any/all police officers seeking this instruction.  The training will be adapted and modified based on changes and/or improvements in anti-theft technologies, investigative techniques, laws/regulations, methods of theft, etc.  The training program is evaluated based on feedback from attendees and will continue as long as there is sufficient demand for this training.    

The course topics range from basic vehicle theft indicators for patrol officers to heavy equipment and tractor-trailer identification. The below training curriculum is currently offered to police officers:

  • Auto Theft 101: Traffic stops and auto theft-related crime.  This course includes information about vehicle identification numbers, identification labels, documents (e.g. titles) and license plates; as well as methods of theft.

  • Auto Theft 102: Stolen vehicle investigations.  This course includes vehicle identification and methods used to alter/counterfeit VINs, labels and documents.

  • Auto Theft 103: Identification of ATVs.

  • Auto Theft 104: Identification of motorcycles.

  • Auto Theft 105: Identification of heavy equipment.

  • Auto Theft 106: Identification of trucks, tractors and semi-trailers.

The ATPA's training program is available to all law enforcement agencies free-of-charge in the Commonwealth.  For scheduling and more information, call the ATPA at 717-591-7097.

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In the News

Mustang remains in park

Man with possession of classic car, sold on eBay and later reported stolen, still can't drive vehicle.

The owner said the car had disappeared from a Conestoga storage shed where it had been kept since the 1970s.  In 2005, it was sold on eBay to a buyer in Holliston, Mass., who bought it for his wife and spent $60,000 restoring it.

Then police informed him the car might be stolen and the owner in Lancaster wanted it back.  The classic car has been in limbo ever since.

Sunday News, Lancaster, PA

FBI breaks up $25 million "car cloning" ring

There's probably no way to describe the feeling.

Joe Pirrone's pride and joy, his F350 Super Duty turbo diesel truck, turned out to be a stolen "clone."

One moment Guiseppe "Joe" Pirrone was on a long weekend at the beach.

The next moment, he found out the pickup that he bought a year ago is stolen and he is still on the hook for the $27,000 loan.

Stories like Pirrone's are scattered across the country, and Tuesday, the FBI announced that it has broken up one of the largest auto theft cases in the U.S.

Capping "Operation Dual Identity," arrest warrants for 17 people were executed in Tampa and Miami, Florida; Chicago, Illinois; and in Mexico City and Guadalajara, Mexico.  The suspects were accused of "cloning" vehicles, which is making stolen cars look like legal ones.

The FBI says that the ring was operating in the U.S. for more than 20 years.  More than 1,000 vehicles were stolen in Florida, with more than $25 million in losses to consumers and banks.

CNN, Tampa, FL

Reported stolen car leads to insurance fraud arrest

A Wilkes-Barre man who reported his car stolen from a South Scranton diner about 10 hours after it was involved in a Christmas Eve crash on Interstate 81 faces charges of insurance fraud and false reports to police, the Northeastern Pennsylvania Insurance Fraud/Auto Theft Task Force said Thursday.

The defendant told police he left his 1999 Nissan Maxima parked outside Chick's Diner on Moosic Street with the keys under the floor mat and called his brother for a ride on Dec. 24 at 3:30 a.m.  He notified police when he returned to the diner about 1:30 p.m. and found his car missing.

Police later learned the car had been involved in an accident at the Avoca exit of I-81 at 3:35 a.m., with the driver fleeing the scene.

On Jan. 11, the defendant filed a claim with Progressive Insurance indicating his car was stolen from Chick's and he was not driving at the time of the accident, the task force said.

The Times Tribune, Scranton, PA

Stolen car leads police to alleged chop shop

An electronic signal coming from a car stolen in New York led Easton police to an alleged chop shop where investigators found piles of car parts and numerous stolen vehicles.

Two individuals are charged with owning or operating a chop shop, possession of altered or illegally obtained property, unauthorized use of automobiles and receiving stolen property.

Both men were committed to Northampton County Prison, one under $75,000 bail and the other under $55,000 bail.

Investigators said they found at least 18 vehicles, including a forklift, in the process of being taken apart on the property.

The Morning Call, Allentown, PA

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Mark Your Calendar

NE-IAATI, NC-IAATI & Ohio Auto Theft Investigators Association Joint Annual Training Seminar

May 10-13, 2010;  Cleveland, Ohio

Heavy Equipment Theft Training

June 1-2, 2010;  Cranberry Township, PA

Heavy Equipment Theft Training

June 3, 2010;  Bensalem, PA

PA Chiefs of Police Conference

July 11-12, 2010;  Lancaster, PA

International Assoc. of Auto Theft Investigators Conference

August 23-27, 2010;  Orlando, FL

ATPA Fall Grantee Conference

October 20-21, 2010;  Gettysburg, PA

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Board of Directors, Grantees & Staff

Board of Directors

  • Julia K. Hearthway, Esq., Chairperson, Legislative Committee Chair, Chief Deputy Attorney General, Office of the Attorney General of Pennsylvania
  • Alan P. Demers, Secretary, Public Relations Committee Chair, Vice President, Claims, Nationwide Insurance Company
  • Ronald K. Kosh, Treasurer, Vice President, Public & Governmental Affairs, AAA Mid Atlantic Insurance Group
  • Celeste C. Dodson, Operations Manager, State Farm Insurance Company
  • Colonel Frank E. Pawlowski, Commissioner, Pennsylvania State Police
  • Charles H. Ramsey, Commissioner, Philadelphia Police Department


  • Allegheny County District Attorney's Office
  • Delaware County District Attorney's Office
  • Good Shepherd Mediation Program
  • Harrisburg Bureau of Police
  • Lancaster City Police
  • Lehigh County District Attorney's Office
  • Northeast Regional Task Force
  • Pennsylvania State Police Auto Theft Units (Western, Central and Eastern)
  • Philadelphia District Attorney's Office
  • Philadelphia Police Department
  • Pittsburgh Police Department


  • Michelle L. Staton, Executive Director
  • Christine E. Cassel, Grant Assistant
  • Lt. Joseph Boyd (retired), Training Instructor

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