SLO CHP offers free window etching and steering wheel locks to curb vehicle theft

The California Highway Patrol is holding a free window etching event to combat vehicle theft, the agency said in a news release, and you can get a free steering wheel lock as well.

Etching a car’s vehicle identification number, or VIN, can help law enforcement identify stolen vehicles.

CHP will be hosting the event for free VIN window etching on Dec. 15 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at its San Luis Obispo office, located at 675 California Blvd.

“It is important to note; this will not prevent the theft of a vehicle but will assist law enforcement in locating and identifying your stolen vehicle,” the CHP said.

Etchings will be done by appointment only, and a free steering wheel lock will be provided with each appointment.

To set an appointment, visit

How many cars are stolen in SLO County?

As of Tuesday, 318 stolen vehicles have been reported in San Luis Obispo County in 2023, CHP told The Tribune in an email.

That’s slightly less than 2022, which capped out with 349 stolen vehicle reports. Stolen vehicle reports peaked at 457 in 2021 and 404 in 2020 — a sharp rise from 270 reports in 2019.

California is seeing an increase in stolen vehicle reports across the state.

Vehicle thefts rose 1.9% from 2021 to 2022, the most recent data from CHP shows. Los Angeles County saw the most thefts with 61,770 vehicles stolen, followed by Alameda County at close to 16,000 thefts and San Diego County with nearly 13,000 thefts.

According to Capitol One’s Auto Navigator, the etching can be done with chemicals, a mechanical medium, or a laser. The VIN etching is done in small type at the edge or the window, so it doesn’t obstruct any views of the driver.

Dealerships charge up to $250 for the service, Capitol One said, but do-it-yourself kits cost around $20 to $30 from an auto parts store.