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MARYLAND TRAGEDY HEATS UP CONGRESSIONAL DEBATE ON ANTI-CAR THEFT BILL; SAFETY ADVOCATES CALL ON AUTOMAKERS TO DROP OPPOSITION

MARYLAND TRAGEDY HEATS UP CONGRESSIONAL DEBATE ON ANTI-CAR THEFT
 BILL; SAFETY ADVOCATES CALL ON AUTOMAKERS TO DROP OPPOSITION
 WASHINGTON, Sept. 10 /PRNewswire/ -- The tragedy in Howard County, Md., on Tuesday underscores the need for a comprehensive solution to the mounting crisis of auto theft, safety advocates told members of the House of Representatives today. Media reports across the country told of Patricia Basu's gruesome and untimely death while trying to free her baby from her car as it was being stolen, and sparked numerous follow-up stories on the issue of auto theft.
 This sad story shows the unquestionable need for the Anti-Car Theft Act of 1992 now pending in Congress (H.R. 4542 and S. 2613), said the bill's author and representatives of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety at a hearing before the House Energy and Commerce Committee's Subcommittee on Commerce, Consumer Protection and Competitiveness.
 "Auto theft has spun completely out of control," said Rep. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), author of the bill. "What has been treated by some as something of a joke -- the so-called 'joyride' -- has developed into a deadly serious business. The public is demanding action and the Congress can and must act."
 "Auto theft is a growing crime and a costly crime," said Jack Gillis, public affairs director with the Consumer Federation of America and the author of "The Car Book," who was one of two representatives for Advocates to testify at the hearing. "H.R. 4542 is an important step in offering the American consumer protection against the enormous costs associated with automobile theft. Without such legislation, the consumer is left to protect him or herself against the growing and more technologically sophisticated incidence of automobile theft."
 "Auto theft continues to be a major problem in the United States," said Herman Brandau, associate general counsel for State Farm Insurance Companies and a board member of Advocates. "Not only is auto theft a significant factor in driving up the cost of automobile insurance and thus a major expense for automobile owners, but the use of (stolen) automobiles and the profits from (these) automobiles are often intimately intertwined with other serious criminal activities."
 Yesterday, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety called on automakers to drop their opposition to the parts marking provision of the bill. In letters to Thomas H. Hanna, president of the Motor Vehicle Manufacturers Association (MVMA), and George C. Nield, president of the Association of International Automobile Manufacturers (AIAM), Advocates' Executive Director Judith Lee Stone asked the two groups to "please join us in supporting this critical, timely piece of consumer protection and safety legislation."
 An automobile is stolen in the United States every 19 seconds -- more than 1.7 million vehicles in 1991, according to new FBI statistics. And the number of auto thefts has increased 38 percent between 1986 and 1991.
 The bill, co-sponsored Schumer and Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner Jr. (R-Wis.), would provide a four-pronged approach to solving the auto theft crisis: tougher law enforcement; parts marking; title fraud control; and export controls.
 Many members of the subcommittee live in states that have a serious auto theft problem:
 -- Chair: Cardiss Collins (D), Illinois -- auto theft up 3 percent in 1991.
 -- Ranking Minority Member: Alex McMillan (R), North Carolina -- auto theft up 7.3 percent in 1991.
 -- Joe Barton (R), Texas -- No. 3 state for auto theft, up 6.1 percent in 1991.
 -- Michael Bilirakis (R), Florida -- No. 9 state for auto theft.
 -- Rick Boucher (D), Virginia -- auto theft up 5 percent in 1991.
 -- Terry L. Bruce (D), Illinois -- auto theft up 3 percent in 1991.
 -- Jim Cooper (D), Tennessee -- auto theft up 9 percent in 1991.
 -- Peter H. Kostmayer (D), Pennsylvania -- auto theft down statewide in 1991, but soared in many cities around the state.
 -- Thomas J. Manton (D), New York -- No. 2 state for auto theft.
 -- Tom McMillen (D), Maryland -- No. 10 state for auto theft, up 8.7 percent in 1991.
 -- Michael G. Oxley (R), Ohio -- auto theft up 2.9 percent in 1991.
 -- J. Roy Rowland (D), Georgia -- auto theft down in 1991.
 -- Edolphus Towns (D), New York -- No. 2 state for auto theft.
 -- Fred Upton (R), Michigan -- theft down in 1991 (dropped off "top 10" list following aggressive anti-theft program similar to programs called for in the bill).
 -- Henry A. Waxman (D), California -- No. 1 state for auto theft, up 4.4 percent.
 Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety is a broad-based alliance of consumer, safety and law enforcement groups and insurance and agents organizations formed to promote adoption of effective highway safety legislation, standards, policies and programs at national and state levels in order to reduce deaths, injuries and economic costs associated with crashes, fraud and theft involving motor vehicles.
 -0- 9/10/92
 /NOTE: For more information, fact sheets or copies of the MVMA and AIAM letters, call the contact below./
 /CONTACT: Katherine R. Hutt of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, 202-408-1711/ CO: Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety ST: District of Columbia IN: AUT SU: LEG


DC -- DC012 -- 7909 09/10/92 10:18 EDT
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