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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Car Thieves Get a Tiny Museum

MTA visitor finding out how easy it is for a thief to saw through a chained steering wheel.
About 40 cars are stolen every day in Moscow, and the theft rate is on the rise. But help is on the way in the form of the Museum of Car Theft.

The museum, which opened Tuesday night and is the first of its kind in the world, according to its founders, offers compelling examples showing that a car thief can overcome almost any barrier. Among the exhibits are fake documents, broken anti-theft devices and terrifying statistics.

"The aim is to attract attention to the problem of car theft and maybe force people to at least equip their cars with basic alarm systems," said museum founder Alexei Svistunov, who heads PARI Agency, which compiles statistics, and is editor in chief of the Russian Book of Records.

Svistunov said as many as 40 percent of cars do not have alarms.

According to museum statistics, 9,126 cars were stolen in the capital last year. The record was set in 1996 when 16,531 vehicles were stolen. That number sharply declined after the 1998 financial crisis, and only 4,698 cars were stolen in 1999.

This year, car theft has been growing by 180 percent a quarter, with more than 7,000 cars snatched from their owners in the first half of 2002.

The statistics are compiled from traffic police reports and car dealers, Svistunov said.

A breakdown of car theft in the city's 10 districts is given at the museum. The northern areas of Moscow are apparently the safest for car owners, and Zelenograd had the lowest number of thefts last year, with 130 cars stolen.

The highest number of thefts was in the eastern district, where 1,167 cars were stolen last year. It was closely followed by the central and southern districts, where thieves drove away 1,132 and 1,112 cars, respectively.

The most popular foreign cars for thieves are the Audi-A6, Volkswagen Passat, Mitsubishi Pajero, Grand Cherokee Jeep, more prestigious models of Mercedes, the BMW 5 series, Toyota Land Cruiser, Toyota Lexus and Volvo Cross Country.

Eighty percent of stolen Russian cars are Ladas, mainly the VAZ-2109, 21099 and 21213 models.

Part of the museum is dedicated to various anti-theft protection devices, most of which are presented after being broken by thieves. Chains and other anti-theft devices are sawed apart. Locks are drilled out.

The museum held an impromptu contest to show how simple it is to pick a car's inside locks.

A Moskovsky Komsomolets reporter opened a lock in about two seconds using a ruler with a hook.

Aside from conventional anti-theft devices, the museum has a number of alternative, homemade variants, including hunting traps for gas pedals and chains for steering wheels.

One display showcases the inventive mind of a World War II veteran, who placed large fishing hooks on the driver's seat of his car every night. According to a sign next to the display, the man eventually gave up on the idea after forgetting several times to remove the hooks before getting into the car.

The Museum of Car Theft is located at the Lada-Favorit car dealership at 71 Koptevskaya Ulitsa. Tel. 974-0899. 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Admission is free.