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Dec 29, 2010

New California Law Makes It Illegal To Possess Motorcycle Theft Tools

"Pigtails" like these make it possible for thieves to steal some motorcycles in as little as 20 seconds, but possession of "pigtails" and other items associated with motorcycle theft will be illegal in California beginning January 1, 2011.
Motorcycle Thieves on Notice

New California Law Makes Possession of a "Pigtail" Illegal

Law enforcement agencies across California now have the ability to crack down on crooks who were taking advantage of a loophole in the law to steal thousands of sport motorcycles every year.

Professional motorcycle thieves use a device, known as a "pigtail," to bypass the factory-installed ignition on these bikes. Using common hardware like electrical tape, wire strippers, and an Allen wrench, the culprits design the pigtail to work like an altered motorcycle ignition, which allows them to steal a bike in less than 20 seconds.

Current law bans the possession of burglar tools such as "slim jims," shaved keys and bolt cutters, if law enforcement can establish the intent to use these items to break-in and/or steal a car. Previously, police officers and deputies could not arrest a suspect carrying those devices to steal a motorcycle because it was not against the law.

However, all that changes on January 1st, 2011, thanks to the introduction of California Penal Code Section 466.65. The new law creates a parallel offense which makes it a misdemeanor to possess specified tools with the intent to unlawfully take or drive a motorcycle. Violators face up to six months in jail and fines up to $1,000.

"The freedom of riding a motorcycle on California's roads is one of life's greatest joys that only enthusiasts can truly appreciate," said State Assemblyman Martin Garrick, who authored the legislation to ban pigtails. "With this new law we are taking an important step to defend that freedom from those who seek to take it away by stealing someone's motorcycle."

Assemblyman Garrick, who represents the 74th District in north San Diego County, joined law enforcement officials and motorcycle aficionados on Tuesday morning to raise awareness about the new law, which is designed to reduce motorcycle theft throughout California. The Golden State currently leads the nation in stolen motorcycles.

During the first 10 months of this year, more than 5,000 motorcycles were stolen in California. According to the insurance industry, the cost of a stolen motorcycle averages around $9,000 per claim. If every owner whose bike was stolen filed a claim, California insurers would have faced $45 million dollars in reimbursement costs.

Assemblyman Garrick, an avid motorcycle rider himself, spoke about the financial impact motorcycle theft has on all Californians.

"Although not everyone in the state rides motorcycles, the cost associated with the theft of sports bikes impacts all of us since those costs are often passed on to auto policy holders as well."

Assemblyman Garrick thanked the San Diego District Attorney's Office for sponsoring his legislation. He also acknowledged Chula Vista Police Officer Anthony Molina, who initially raised concern about pigtails after receiving an urgent phone call from one of his fellow patrol officers last year.

That officer was seeking advice after he stopped a known motorcycle thief on a traffic stop. According to the officer, the individual was carrying hardware typically used to steal sport bikes, but Molina reluctantly told his colleague to let the suspect go.

The incident inspired Molina to work with the District Attorney's office to close the glaring legal loophole.

Law enforcement investigators say they're relieved they now have the ability to stop motorcycle thieves when they catch them red-handed with an altered motorcycle ignition or the tools used to create pigtails.

'This law will greatly assist proactive police units throughout the state which have been working diligently to target professional bike thieves for years. This is the tool we've been waiting for that will give law enforcement the edge against these criminals," said California Highway Patrol Captain Scott Parker, who is also the commanding officer for the San Diego Regional Auto Theft Task Force, also known as RATT.