Virginia State Police HEAT Program

The Virginia State Police Help Eliminate Auto Theft (HEAT) program is celebrating 25 years of auto theft prevention. In 1991, auto thefts in Virginia had climbed to 21,284, outpacing aggravated assaults and robberies combined. Law enforcement made 4,032 auto theft-related arrests that year, and the value of vehicles stolen was nearly $114 million. In 1992, the Virginia State Police responded by establishing the HEAT program, and motor vehicle thefts have since declined by more than 60 percent.

HEAT program highlights:

— Funds seven Virginia State Police auto theft special agents, who conduct auto theft investigations, salvage yard examinations, as well as public outreach.

— Maintains a bait vehicle program of 11 ATVs, cars, high-performance motorcycles, and scooters. These vehicles are available to any law enforcement agency in Virginia. HEAT staff delivers bait vehicles to the receiving agency, provides training on the equipment, and collects the equipment at the end of the operation period. Agencies incur no cost for using the bait equipment.

— Provides free VIN etching events, in which a vehicle’s 17-digit vehicle identification number is etched into the exterior auto glass. For motorcycles and scooters, HEAT provides etching decals that owners may apply to their vehicle at their discretion. HEAT etched more than 400 vehicles in 2016.

— Hosts the annual HEAT Awards luncheon, which recognizes law enforcement agencies and individuals who have gone above and beyond in the fight against auto theft.

— Provides grant funding to local agencies so that their auto theft personnel may attend the Southeast Regional Chapter of IAATI Annual Conference.

— Works dozens of outreach events each year, from auto shows to NASCAR, and also provides display materials and staff support to local agencies at various other public appearances.

— In an effort to spread awareness about auto theft prevention, makes major monetary investments in marketing, including purchase of Google Ad Words and banner advertisements.

— Has more than 3,100 Facebook followers and amassed more than 115,000 YouTube views in a six-month period for three videos it released late in 2016.

— Distributes thousands of high-quality, no-cost educational and promotional materials to local law enforcement agencies each year, including air fresheners, brochures, key chains, pencils, pens and stickers.

— Maintains a tip line that offers up to $25,000 for tips on auto theft that lead to an arrest. Tips can be submitted online at HEATreward.com or by calling (800) 947-HEAT.