Iowa Department of Public Safety Iowa State Patrol Division


A pickup recovered by Vehicle Theft


It shall be the mission of the Iowa State Patrol Division, Vehicle Theft Unit to reduce the occurrence of vehicle thefts within the State of Iowa and to eliminate the use of Iowa as a marketplace for vehicles stolen outside the state.

To accomplish this mission, the Vehicle Theft Unit will:

  1. Continue to be a leader in the investigations of vehicle theft and insurance fraud, and cooperate with and give support to federal, county, local and other Iowa law enforcement agencies along with law enforcement agencies from other states.
  2. Inspect recovered stolen vehicles, process them for latent prints, photograph, search for, and preserve evidence, and verify vehicle identity for vehicle theft investigations and other law enforcement agencies.
  3. Compile and maintain records, inspect vehicles and records of garages, demolishers, rebuilders, dealers, vehicle manufacturers, and salvage operators.
  4. Develop and maintain a proactive operation utilizing confidential informants for the purchase of stolen vehicles with the ultimate goal of making arrests resulting in successful prosecutions.
  5. Continue training/education in all aspects of vehicle theft to maintain the high level of expertise and knowledge of a vehicle theft officer.
  6. Cooperate with insurance companies, National Insurance Crime Bureau, Mid States Organized Crime Information Center, the public, and other non-law enforcement agencies to further educate them on how to avoid the innocent purchase of stolen vehicles and/or component parts.
  7. Review the present laws of the State of Iowa, laws of other states, and federal laws for the purpose of writing better and more efficient legislation pertaining to vehicle theft related issues.

An Officer checks a stolen motorcycle


In February 1976, in response to criminal information developed as a result of an investigation into a Mount Pleasant salvage operation, the Iowa State Patrol Division selected and trained fourteen (14) troopers as vehicle theft investigators. This was a part-time assignment in addition to regular patrol duties. One trooper from each of the fourteen districts served in this capacity. In 1977, troopers with the largest vehicle theft caseload were permitted to work plain clothes as opposed to being in uniform and the patrol cars were stripped of all official markings. On January 1, 1983, Colonel Frank Metzger, formally created District 15, the Vehicle Theft Unit brining the number of District offices from fourteen to fifteen. Six troopers were assigned as full-time vehicle theft officers and transferred to the new district. These troopers were assigned to work on vehicle theft investigations across the entire state. Lieutenant Jerry Lewis was the first commander of District 15. On September 1, 1983, District 15 relocated from the Patrol Headquarters in the Wallace Building to 5390 NW 2nd Avenue, Des Moines, Iowa. The position of part-time vehicle theft officers was discontinued. The strength of the vehicle theft unit was increased to eight troopers and permanent locations were established in January 1984. The locations were Des Moines (2), Cedar Falls, Cedar Rapids, Council Bluffs, Davenport, Ottumwa, and Sioux City. There were additional positions of Des Moines and Dubuque added in September 1987. On September 1, 1988, the strength was again increased, totaling 11 with four troopers assigned to the Des Moines office. In the past few years due to budget constraints, the number of troopers assigned to the unit had diminished to 1. In November 2005, that number was increased to 5 and they are dispersed throughout the state. There are 2 in Des Moines, 1 in Cedar Falls, 1 in Davenport, and 1 in Sioux City.

In August 1990, the office moved to 5554 NE 14th Street in Des Moines. In June 2002, District 15, moved to its present location at 5912 NW Second Avenue in Des Moines.

If you wish to contact the Vehicle Theft Unit, please call (515) 281-6176.

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