Orange County residents have heard about the LoJack anti-theft device for the past five years. Radio and television ads promoting the system in Los Angeles County recount how cars were recovered just hours after the theft occurred.
LoJack's stolen vehicle recovery system, which boasts a 95% recovery rate, has not been available in Orange County. But it will be soon.
The Dedham, Mass.-based company said Wednesday that it has been approved by Orange County law enforcement agencies and will have its automobile monitoring system in operation this spring. LoJack said it will move into San Diego County at the same time.
The LoJack system, which costs $595 including installation, uses equipment provided to police to locate stolen vehicles by listening to a silent electronic signal emitted by a device installed in the car.
The secret to its success is that nobody knows what a LoJack transmitter looks like. The company does not allow its product to be photographed.
It is installed by LoJack technicians in one of a couple dozen difficult-to-locate spots within the car. The company said its system's effectiveness has been enhanced because thieves don't know where to look or what to look for.
Law enforcement has warmed up to the device since it was introduced in 1986, not only because of its retrieval rate but because its reputation as a crime deterrent has grown. In 25% of auto theft cases, the thief is arrested when a LoJack system has been installed. Without the LoJack, the thieves are caught and arrested only 5% of the time.
Police have also used the LoJack devices to bust so-called chop shops--where car thieves strip stolen vehicles and sell them off piece by piece.
Buena Park's Police Chief Richard M. Tefank said he has high hopes for the system, which has special importance in the north part of Orange County next to Los Angeles County. "I think it will help to guard against car thieves in southern Los Angeles skipping over the county line," he said.
LoJack Vice President David Manly said Orange County represents a huge market for the company. "Like Los Angeles, it is a high auto theft area," Manly said.
According to the California Highway Patrol, 20,332 cars were stolen in Orange County in 1992, the most recent year for which figures are available. The county ranked third highest in car thefts in the state that year.