If you have a 1990s Honda and like to spend time in central Arcata, it might be a good idea to make sure your locks are in really, really good shape.
Someone, probably someone with a few altered keys, has been taking aging Hondas, driving them around for a day or two, and then leaving them, usually undamaged, in one of the remoter corners of the city.
"Transportation," said Detective Sgt. Todd Dokweiler of the Arcata Police Department.
Since April, more than a dozen cars have gone missing this way, he said, which pretty much makes it a major crime wave compared to Arcata's usual rate of auto thefts.
The thief or thieves will sometimes take appealing goodies from inside the car -- cell phones or other electronics -- but police theorize that the culprits are taking these cars mainly to use them, possibly to commit other crimes overnight. And they don't have to bother hot-wiring them. A well-altered key will not just open an aging Honda, but start it up just fine, Dokweiler said. (Who knew? Well, OK, somebody knew.)
Police have gotten some fingerprints from the recovered cars, but haven't made any arrests yet.
A few of the thefts have occurred in residential neighborhoods, but most have been in a central area roughly bordered by Samoa Boulevard, 17th Street, K Street and Highway 101, he said.
Along with making sure locks are in good shape, he said, owners of vulnerable cars should park in visible spots and consider getting a club or other steering wheel locking device.