In response to an increase in city-wide theft from vehicles, the Madison Police Department is taking some new proactive measures to protect vehicles from break-ins: vehicle report cards.

Under the police department’s new vehicle report card initiative, officers in the city’s North District will inspect parked cars at random, assessing their susceptibility to break-ins.

Officers will check for conditions that encourage or more easily facilitate theft, such as open doors, windows and conspicuous valuables, MPD Sgt. Bernie Gonzalez said.

Based on the officer’s assessment, the car will receive a “report card” with a passing or failing grade. However, cars that “fail” will not be subject to ticketing, an MPD statement issued yesterday said.

Once completed, the bright-pink report card will be placed face down on the windshield of every car in a given parking lot with each car receiving an individual report card so that no one car will be singled out as vulnerable to break-in, MPD spokesperson Joel DeSpain said.

The program aims to reinforce good practices among those who pass the test, while encouraging those who fail to reconsider the condition in which they leave their car, Gonzalez said.

“Our hope is that it will provide [those who fail the test] relief that it was the police and not a thief visiting their car,” Gonzalez said.

According to DeSpain, crime statistics from last year indicate a decrease in all areas of crime except for theft, which encompasses a significant number of car break-ins.

Police analysts conducted research to determine which areas were experiencing the greatest amount of car-related theft over the past six months.

The analysts discovered several high- and medium-concentration areas in the North District, including the Eastgate Cinema area, American Parkway apartment complexes, Portage Road, Hayes Road and Village Green Lane.

DeSpain said Gonzalez received the idea at a problem-oriented policing conference, where he discovered the “report card” model, which has been successfully implemented in Arlington, Texas.

Gonzalez said establishing the new program will not require any extra effort or any additional resources for the police department.

“We’re hoping that the success of this is in its simplicity,” Gonzalez said.

Police have already received concerns about physical manipulation of vehicles during the investigation process, Gonzalez said.

However, he said officers would be conducting all security checks visually.

“It’s not going to be invasive,” Gonzalez said. “We can easily tell by looking whether a car is locked or unlocked and if there are items of value in plain view.”

Once the program has been piloted and evaluated on the North side, MPD plans to implement it city-wide by this summer, Gonzalez said.