The Property Crimes Division is organized into eight details:
- Auto Theft
- Arizona Auto Theft Task Force
- Court Liaison
- Elder Abuse Task Force
- Major Theft Offenders / Pawn Unit
If you have information about a crime that has occurred and wish to provide that information anonymously, please call 520-88-CRIME (520-882-7463).
Property Crimes Division Mission Statement
To conduct professional criminal investigations with a constant awareness of the adverse impact that property crime has on the quality of life of the citizens in our community and to reduce property crime through education and targeted enforcement.
Auto Theft, 520-791-4664
How to report a stolen vehicle
- Call 9-1-1.
- Have your license plate or VIN (Vehicle Identification Number) available. Keep the title in a safe place other than your vehicle. This document has your VIN on it. Your insurance policy paperwork also has your VIN on it.
- Call 520-791-4664 to update your phone number or address. That’s how you are notified when your vehicle is recovered.
- If your car is returned to you, call 9-1-1 to officially report your vehicle as recovered.
What happens when you report your vehicle stolen?
- Patrol officers are notified within 30 minutes of your report.
- If your car is repossessed by a lending company, they must notify the law enforcement agency for that jurisdiction.
- Your stolen vehicle is entered into a national crime computer.
- Approximately 70% of stolen vehicles are recovered.
Auto theft prevention tips
1.5 million vehicles are stolen in the United States each year. The Tucson Police Department recommends having one or more auto theft prevention devices:
- Alarms, ignition disabling devices, steering wheel locking devices
- Lo/Jack — The Tucson Police Department has Lo/Jack tracking devices installed in many of its patrol vehicles
Watch Your Car
The Watch Your Car decal program is a free, voluntary program whereby vehicle owners enroll their vehicles with the Arizona Automobile Theft Authority. The vehicle is then entered into the Motor Vehicle Department (MVD) database and participants receive decals for their front and rear windows. By displaying the decals, vehicle owners convey to law enforcement officials that their vehicle is not usually in use between the hours of 1 a.m. and 5 a.m., when the majority of auto thefts occur.
If a police officer witnesses the vehicle in operation between these hours, they have the right to stop the vehicle and verify it is being legally operated by the rightful owner. Follow this link to the Arizona Automobile Theft Authority to sign up for the Watch Your Car program.
Where all the unrecovered vehicles go
- Mexico and other countries
- Chop shops
- Sold with duplicate title
- Sold with a VIN (Vehicle Identification Number) switch
- Retitled and sold in New Mexico and Texas
Tips for buying a used car from a private party
(These are general guidelines. Following them still does not guarantee a problem-free purchase.)
Detectives with the Tucson Police Department's Auto Theft Detail receive several calls a week from citizens wanting police help after having purchased a used car. Typically, they want to get their money back after having purchased a vehicle that was for sale on some lot, from a seller they knew very little, if anything, about. Often there is little the police can do, as the problems are civil, rather than criminal, in nature. Some calls are about a recently purchased used vehicle that they have since discovered was reported stolen. They find this out when they can not get the vehicle titled in their name. In these cases, a fraud scheme is sometimes involved, and the nightmare begins.
- Be very cautious when buying a used car that is advertised for sale on a street corner or at a swap meet. This allows the seller to remain anonymous. Often, a phone number is provided to contact the seller. Many of these phone numbers are blocked and are non-published numbers. This means that the buyer or the police cannot easily track down the seller when a problem is discovered with the vehicle or the title.
- The person selling the vehicle should be the person whose name is on the title. Beware of the seller who tells you that he is selling the vehicle on behalf of someone as the reason why the title is in someone else's name or has already been signed off. A title that has already been signed off, not in your presence, could easily be forged. A Notary signature and stamp are no guarantee of the validity of the signature.
- Check the vehicle title and registration carefully. Make sure that the VIN (Vehicle Identification Number) on the title matches the VIN on the vehicle. The VIN can be found on the driver's side front dash area of the vehicle and can be read by looking through the windshield. A title that shows the word "Salvage" in the Type field makes the vehicle worth about half of the blue book value for the vehicle. This means the vehicle has been totaled and reconstructed and it may not be the vehicle it is purported to be. Even a title that shows "Transfer" in the Type box does not guarantee that the vehicle was not salvaged at one time. It is possible to get the "Salvage" designation removed from a title. The word "Duplicate" in the Type field should also be a red flag. It may mean that the title was obtained fraudulently. Some people sell the same vehicle more than once by using a duplicate title.
- Be sure to obtain a bill of sale from the seller that specifically describes the vehicle you intend to purchase, including the Vehicle Identification Number, the selling price, and if additional money is owed and how it is to be paid. Ideally, do this at a bank or lending institution where you have witnesses and get it notarized there. Get the seller's name, date of birth, address and phone number. If possible, ask to see the seller's identification and verify that the photo, name, and other information match what you have been told.
- Do not give money or a trade-in until the seller goes with you to the Motor Vehicle Division (MVD) and a MVD representative tells you that the title can transfer into your name. This assures that there is no lien on the vehicle that you were not advised of, that the title is a valid one, and that the vehicle has not been reported stolen. In most cases, someone who is dishonest will not be willing to go with you to MVD, and by requiring this, hopefully, you will not be "taken" by a scam artist.
A final word of caution
If the vehicle you are looking at is being offered way below its value, don't buy it! Remember, if it looks too good to be true, it probably is! If it later turns out to be a stolen vehicle, a court might decide you should have known that because of the low selling price, and deny you any consideration. If you have questions, call your Auto Theft Detail at 520-791-4664 and speak with a detective before you make the purchase.
Tips for selling a used car to a private party
- Be very cautious about giving out personal information, such as your phone number and address. If possible, arrange to meet prospective buyers at your bank, credit union, or place of business so they can inspect or test-drive the vehicle without going to your home.
- DO have a friend or spouse with you when someone test-drives the vehicle.
- DO NOT allow anyone to test drive the vehicle without you as the person may be intent upon stealing your vehicle. You may be held liable if the person has an accident or commits a crime in your vehicle.
- DO NOT leave the vehicle title in the vehicle or allow anyone to take the title until the sale is completed.
- DO NOT sign off the vehicle title until the sale is completed. A signed title is an "open" title. A person in possession of that title may be able to claim ownership of the vehicle. When the sale is completed, sign off the title in the presence of a reputable Notary.
- DO have a Notary at a bank, credit union, or business witness the sale of the vehicle.
- DO obtain copies of all sales related paperwork.
- Provide a bill of sale specifically describing the vehicle that is being sold. This document should include the license plate number, the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN), the selling price and any agreement for payment. Consult someone with specific expertise in such contracts for details of what should be included. These are just general guidelines. Remember that a bill of sale is NOT an ownership document.
- State law REQUIRES that you to notify the Motor Vehicle Division (MVD) of the sale. Fill out the notice of sale on the reverse side of the vehicle registration and take it to MVD. When possible it is recommended that you AND the purchaser go together to MVD to have the title changed. You are allowed to mail the registration to MVD if you choose. DO NOT give the registration to the buyer.
- Insist on payment in the form of a money order or cashier's check instead of a personal check and cash it in a timely manner.
More Auto Theft Prevention Tips
Arizona Auto Theft Task Force
The Arizona Vehicle Theft Task Force (AVTTF) was established in January 1997 to provide statewide expertise in the investigation of property crimes involving stolen vehicles, related components and insurance fraud. The task force is comprised of city, county, state and federal law enforcement agencies participating in a concerted effort to identify, apprehend, and prosecute individuals and criminal organizations that profit from the theft of motor vehicles and related crimes. The AVTTF also provides subject matter expertise, training and investigative support to law enforcement agencies targeting vehicle theft and related crimes.
Burglary Detail, 520-791-5171
The Burglary Unit encourages you to report any specific information that may help to recover stolen property and arrest those responsible for burglaries.
- To report any crime in progress or to have an initial report taken, please call 9-1-1.
- To report specific information regarding stolen property or suspect information involving burglaries, or information about individuals who are committing burglaries, please call 520-791-5171.
- You may also report information anonymously through 88-CRIME (520-882-7463) and may receive payment for accurate information leading to the arrest and conviction of offenders.
"The Elder Abuse Coalitions is an organization of state and local governmental and nonprofit agencies working cooperatively to increase awareness, recognition, and prosecution of elder abuse and fraud through coordination, advocacy, and support of local elder abuse task forces."
The Elder Abuse Task Force is a countywide task force comprised of the Arizona Attorney General's Office, the Tucson Police Department, and the Pima County Sheriff’s Department. This unit will review/investigate and when appropriate, prosecute any abuses of the elderly.
Symptoms of Financial Exploitation: “The Ten Red Flags”
Elders may be financially exploited if they are:
- Accompanied by a stranger who encourages them to withdraw a large amount of cash.
- Accompanied by a family member or other person who seems to coerces them into making transactions.
- Not allowed to speak for themselves or make decisions.
- With an acquaintance that appears too interested in their financial status.
- Nervous or afraid of the person accompanying them.
- Giving implausible explanations about what they are doing with their money.
- Unable to remember financial transactions or signing paperwork.
- Fearful that they will be evicted, or institutionalized, if money is not given to a caregiver.
- Neglected or receiving insufficient care given their needs or financial status.
- Isolated from other family members or support by a family member or acquaintance.
Note: Financial exploitation is often found in combination with other forms of abuse. Physical, emotional, and sexual abuse and neglect of a person over 60 should always be reported to Adult Protective Services.
- For an emergency call 911
- The phone number for the Arizona Attorney General’s Office is 520-628-6504
- The Police Hotline is 520-791-5809. (This is not a staffed line, but your message will be recorded.)
Criminal offenses involving fraud are well documented as being the fastest growing type of crime in North America. Correlated directly to the increase with the popularity of methamphetamine possession and production, “meth-fraud” crimes include identity theft, counterfeit checks, and stolen/fraudulent use of credit cards. The Fraud unit investigates these types of cases in addition to the traditional “white-collar” crimes such as embezzlement. We work closely with the United States Secret Service to investigate counterfeit money and the United States Postal Service to investigate cases of stolen/recovered mail.
We have setup a webpage concerning ID Theft, Fraud and Scams with advice in how to avoid becoming a victim. To learn how not to be a victim check our Fraud Prevention page.
Embezzlement cases can be especially difficult crimes to investigate. In cooperation with the Pima County Attorney’s Office, the protocol is to have these cases “trial ready” before an arrest is made. To assist us in preparing case for investigation, please download and complete the Embezzlement Package . This will help us present your case to the County Attorney’s Office.
Some helpful precautions to help you from becoming a victim:
- Safeguard your credit cards, PIN numbers, and cancelled checks
- Never write your PIN number on debit/credit cards
- Shred your mail before you discard it, especially from lenders offering “lines of credit” and “courtesy checks.”
- Do not carry your Social Security card in your wallet or purse.
- Request that merchants check for photo identifications when paying for purchases with debit/credit cards and thank them for their diligence.