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Modern ‘Branding’ Device May Ward Off Car Rustlers

United Press International

Richard Kallmes wants car owners to brand their Mustangs, Pintos and Cougars like cattle.

The Laguna Hills businessman is still angry at the theft eight years ago of his beloved 1967 Volkswagen bug, and he has launched a crusade that he hopes will make life a little harder for car thieves.

Kallmes has invented the I.D. Tech window identification program, whereby car owners have their vehicle identification numbers etched into every single piece of glass in their automobiles.

Expense for Thieves

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The thief is forced to either buy new windows for the car--an expensive proposition--or grind out the numbers, creating a distinct white band that immediately identifies the car as stolen.

“We’re basically branding our cars,” Kallmes said. “What we have done is taken a relatively old technique of putting identifying marks on our property and transferring it to the windows.”

Kallmes, a commercial artist, sees a potentially big market for his new product in California, where 161,000 vehicles worth $500 million were stolen in 1984, according to Justice Department statistics.

There are already similar products on the market, but Kallmes said he is the first to use a high-speed diamond to etch the numbers so deeply that they cannot be removed by sandpaper, as some acid-etched numbers can.

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He also encourages car owners to register their identification numbers with the National Sheriff’s Assn. to help reclaim their vehicles if they are stolen.

“The problem in the past is that the thieves change the license plate, repaint the car and ground out the (vehicle identification number), and when it is recovered, it is impossible for law enforcement officials to identify it (and return it to its rightful owner),” Kallmes said.

Kallmes believes thieves, once familiar with his program of etching numbers just above the locks on the doors, will stop stealing cars with his ID system.

He estimates the cost of replacing all the windows in a car, from windshield to wind wing to rear window, at from $400 to $2,000.

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Although Kallmes says he is on a “crusade” to help other car thief victims and cut down on insurance premiums due to the high number of thefts in California, he hasn’t worked seven years on his product to give it away.

The drills and training classes sell for $4,500 to $5,500.

The retail cost to the car owner is $159, he said.

Angered by Theft

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Kallmes said he hopes his product will cut into the booming business of audible car alarms that sell from $30 to $400.

“Not everyone can afford an alarm,” said I.D. Tech spokesman John Masters. “Not everyone has a Mercedes.”

Kallmes said he was inspired to develop his product on an Easter morning about eight years ago in Monterey Park, when he saw someone driving away his custom-painted 1967 Volkswagen bug.

“I chased him for about a mile but lost him in church traffic,” he said. “That’s when it really burned me. I know what it feels like to have your car stolen. The sense of violation is very deep and very emotional.”

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