Price war breaks out between Eastside LAPD divisions

Earlier this year the LAPD Northeast Division, which patrols the area from Silver Lake and Echo Park to Eagle Rock and Highland Park, announced  it would begin selling The CLUB steering wheel locks  for only $11 (compared to a retail price of about $30)  to help deter car thieves. This week,  Hollenbeck Division, which covers Boyle Heights, El Sereno and Lincoln Heights, came out with its own version of the program but their steering wheel locks are free.

Sgt. Andrew Rea with the Hollenbeck Division said he did not want to get into the business of selling locks.  He just wanted to raise awareness about the vehicles most vulnerable to theft and ways their owners can protect them. The Hollenbeck Division steering wheel locks are not the well known CLUB brand but they will do the trick, said Rea.  The division was able to buy more than 300 of the locks thanks to donations from the Boyle Heights Chamber of Commerce and a Hollenbeck Division police booster group.  Motorists who live in the division and can show they own among the most stolen vehicles – including  1990s Honda Accords, Civics, Acura Integras and Toyota Camrys – can get a free lock.  Anyone whose car has recently been stolen within the Hollenbeck Division can also get a free steering wheel lock, Rea said.

The locks will be distributed on a first-come, first-save basis at the Hollenbeck station house.  However, in a few cases, vehicle owners won’t need to stop off at the station. Some Hollenbeck officers will be pulling over qualified vehicle owner while on patrol to give them a lock, Rea said. “It’s almost like a courtesy [traffic] stop,” he said.  They drivers “are really surprised.”

Photo courtesy LAPD


  1. This bit out of Northeast is quite disturbing. In fact, so too is it out of Hollenbeck, but at least they are not fleecing the public.

    These locks are all fine and dandy — as window dressing. But they don’t stop ANYONE from stealing a car! It takes at most 30 seconds to get them out of the way! And the police damn well know it! It has even been a matter of public warning over the television for many years now! All it takes is a very quick cut of the steering wheel with a little saw blade you can carry in your pocket — no more than 30 seconds. Geez, even kids know this now.

    Most police departments now advise people that the devices will not fend off car theft. But here we have Northeast not caring, because they see how to line their pockets — and I presume that money will go into the donut fund, it definitely is NOT going to the LAPD general fund.

    Even with Hollenbeck giving them away free, there is an issue (although I do commend them for not seeing $ in the devices). For either Northeast or Hollenbeck to give them out like this is an implicit endorsement of these devices as being successful. The problem is that gives the unknowing public a false sense of security, which can be more dangerous than doing nothing.

  2. Lt. Wes Buhrmester, Rampart Patrol Division

    The money trail re the steering wheel locks was discussed in a prior post:


    Neither the officers nor the divisions benefit from the procurement, sales or distribution of the devices. If anyone has evidence the money is being used improperly, they should contact our Internal Affairs Group, as it would be misconduct. As for the deterrence factor, also as earlier discussed, no officer will tell anyone these absolutely prevent car theft. We ensure that no false sense of security is imparted. The devices discourage opportunistic car thieves or joyriders, which is the majority of our thefts. If anyone has evidence or empirical data which counters this, please let me know and I will stand corrected.

    (213) 484-3400

  3. Lt. Wes Buhrmester, Rampart Patrol Division

    PS: Mark, you’re a regular denizen of this website, and you have a great deal of energy and opinion. You’re usually not complimentary of the LAPD, which is not a problem at all. As a public servant, I am accountable to you, not vice versa. How about joining your neighborhood watch group or Community-Police Advisory Board, and making a difference? Help us come up with solutions.

    I don’t mind critics, in fact, they frequently give us more ideas than those with whom we are usually in agreement. If the Department and its officers reach a philosophical plateau with the community, improvement is difficult to achieve. My phone number and e-mail are posted on each of my entries. Let me know what we can do better. Don’t be afraid to let me have it, I’ve been in this business for 32 years and it will not bother me. Blogging is a start, let’s take your energy to the next level: community.

    (213) 484-3400

  4. Mark, dude, take a chill pill. It’s called a “deterrent.” Would anyone with at least a 5th grade education really think they could completely stop car theft with a device that costs less than the today’s average cost of filling the gas tank?

    If I’m a car thief — of any sort (pro, joyriding kiddie, etc.) — moving along the blvd., if your car HAS a club, and the next one doesn’t — chances are pretty good that I’m taking the easier way out and grabbing the un-clubbed car. (It’s not like these guys WANT to work any harder than they already do). Assuming you’re right… 30 seconds (and the added risk of getting caught), is 30 seconds, and that’s a half-minute more than they want to spent doing their dirty deed.

  5. Totally off-topic, but I just want to say that Lt. Wes Buhrmester is kind of awesome. I love the way he always attempts to turn people’s off-the-wall comments in a productive direction. We should all take a page from his book.

  6. Lt. Buhrmester, does this mean the program is still going on for the Northeast Division? I couldn’t find the information on your website.

  7. Lieutenant Buhrmester is not just kind of awesome, he is. I worked for him 10 years ago and still remember him to be a true leader, something the LAPD is sorely lacking. I don’t routinely check promotional lists, but next time I go back to work I’ll check the Captains list. He needs to be on it.

  8. Lt. Wes Buhrmester, Rampart Patrol Division

    Good morning, fellow readers,

    I’m certainly humbled by the praise, and I remember you, Curt. Fun days! Anyway, I’m not awesome by any means, just an officer who loves a fun job, and understands its significance and potential.

    Lindsay, try the following link, from a previous LA Eastsider entry:


    The Northeast Detective Division desk is (213) 485-2566. If the link or the phone number don’t work, e-mail or call me and I’ll take care of it. By the way, anyone calling or e-mailing me enjoys confidentiality. Unless agreed to, I do not post the content of any phone calls or e-mails, whether they be critical or praiseworthy.

    Mark has a valid point about defeating steering wheel locks by cutting the wheel. For my car, I have a device that has a U-shaped appendage which attaches to the brake or clutch pedal, and the opposite end is flat and rests against the floorboard. It locks in that position, thus making that pedal inoperable. I don’t want to link to a particular manufacturer, as it could be construed as an endorsement, but if you check any auto parts website or friendly local store, one can find that device. Enter “brake pedal lock” into a search engine, and you’ll see it. Again, it’s a deterrent, not an absolute guarantee against theft.

    Enjoy your weekends, all. It is the holiday season, so please take the gifts and stuff inside your house, or put them in the trunk. Please do not leave them in plain sight, wrapped or unwrapped. When walking to and from your car and going about your day, look around. Exercise situational awareness, as there is no need for paranoia, but be aware of who and what (e.g., speeding cars) are around you.

    (213) 484-3400

  9. I have a brake-pedal lock that I purchased for $70 at an auto-parts store five years ago, and it’s a sturdy device, though it takes some practice to attach it to the brake pedal without having to crouch down. If someone is willing to go the extra mile to protect their car, they could use a club or brake-pedal lock along with a kill switch. It’s true that both devices can be defeated, but I doubt most thieves will bother, especially for the average used car out there. I’ve had two cars stolen from me in my life, but one was before I bought a club (in 1989), and the other time I hadn’t attached the club (in 2002).

  10. It for one think its great that an LAPD officer is on here responding to inaccurate information and trying to help. This is a good thing. I strongly believe the steering wheel locks are a DETERENT to crime. I had one on my Honda many years ago and low and behold the car 3 spaces behind me had their windows broken and personal belongings stolen. I believe my steering wheel lock prevented my old Honda from being burgularized. The fact that LAPD is giving them out for free is a nice gesture given the horrible economy. I agree with Lt. to don’t leave stuff in your car. Its shocking what people at the malls are leaving in plain sight for criminals to get.

  11. I live in HP and I agree with the Lt. – we need to work in collaboration and get involved with the Neighborhood Watch and/or CPAB in your local community. Northeast Police has made real progress in our community and crime definitely has decreased. And, I believe this is true for LAPD and the entire city. Sounds like the Lt. is proactive, responsive, and willing to work as a true professional to make LA a better place for us all.

  12. Here’s an idea: how about parking the car in your garage instead of piling it with junk? That’s what I do to prevent car theft.

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