HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Charles Ramiscal needs his wheels to get around. But the car he drives today isn't the car he had last year. That one was stolen and stripped.
"Everything was missing, the dash, glove compartment, seats," he said.
Ramiscal was one of thousands of Oahu drivers victimized by auto thieves in 2010. Statistics from the National Insurance Crime Bureau show 3,201 vehicles stolen on Oahu last year, up from 2,935 in 2009. It amounts to a 9.1 percent increase.
Over the same period the national rate fell 7.2 percent to its lowest level since 1967.
Honolulu police numbers differ but still show about a 4.6 percent hike in car thefts from 2009 to 2010.
Through February of this year nearly 600 autos were stolen.
"They're damaging people's property and they don't realize the damage that they're doing to the person," Ramiscal said.
Vehicle theft made headlines in February when police shot Michael Davis after he tried to steal a car, pointed a gun at a security guard, and stormed into a Kalihi warehouse. Then in April, a stolen vehicle chase ended when police shot and killed Mark Ahnee. Witnesses said he fired on cops with a shotgun.
Technicians at Security Alarm Shop in Kakaako said you can't stop a car thief but you can slow them down with layers of security.
"The person who's going to steal your vehicle is a little more sophisticated criminal than the person who's just going to break in and take your items," Joel Ching said.
Hot off the assembly line is an alarm and GPS tracker in one that hooks to your iPhone or Android. If your car is stolen you can pinpoint its location to police. The package costs about $800.
Ramiscal installed a car alarm in his new car. But that didn't stop thieves from victimizing him again.
"Beginning of this year somebody broke into this car, smashed the window, and took an iPod and a bunch of coins," he said.
He and other victims of auto theft may find some solace in this statistic: car thefts on Oahu are way down from 2002 when more than 8,000 cars were stolen.