SCAR - Southwest Commercial Auto Recovery

The Southwest Commercial Auto Recovery Unit (SCAR) is a multi-jurisdictional auto theft unit with investigators from the Van Buren County Sheriff Department, Kalamazoo Township Police Department, and the Michigan State Police. The SCAR unit began in 1988 with three investigators and was grant-funded through the Automobile Prevention Authority (ATPA). ATPA is funded by an annual one-dollar assessment on each insured noncommercial passenger vehicle, plus interest earned by investing those funds. The purpose of the ATPA program is to combat auto theft in the state of Michigan and it continues to provide funding for SCAR and auto theft teams throughout the state.

Currently, the SCAR unit consists of four investigators, including a secretary for administrative support. The unit covers all of Southwest Michigan with the primary focus in Van Buren, Kalamazoo, Calhoun, Berrien, Cass, and St. Joseph counties. SCAR's investigative priority is the identification of organized auto theft rings in their area, along with suspect arrests and the recovery of stolen motor vehicles. SCAR investigators initiate investigations, conduct undercover operations, identify stolen motor vehicles, provide training, and act as a resource for all police agencies in the area. SCAR's expertise also includes chop shop investigation, the identification of retagged motor vehicles, construction equipment theft/ID, and motorcycle identification, i.e., Harley Davidson.

In recent years, SCAR has seen an increase in the amount of "burns" they have investigated. Typically, a "burn" is a vehicle reported stolen by the owner that is discovered burned at another location. The vehicle then has to be identified through a confidential number and the incident investigated. A likely explanation for the increase is the current economic state coupled with the high price of gasoline. Many individuals have large sport utility vehicles that are not economical and carry large monthly payments. If an individual is in financial trouble they may elect to have their vehicle "burned" and collect the insurance money.

SCAR has also investigated a large number of "retags" in which an individual obtains a vehicle and "retags" it with another public VIN. Most often these vehicles have been stolen and are being retagged with a different VIN so the vehicle can be sold with a valid title and a profit realized. Most often these vehicles are part of an organized theft ring operating a chop shop.

Another area that has increased in frequency is the theft of construction equipment. Construction equipment is not titled, is very easy to steal, and not normally checked by patrol officers. It is not uncommon to see these construction pieces retagged with a fraudulent PIN (Product Identification Number) or the PIN tag completely removed from the construction piece.

SCAR detectives are available to assist officers with auto theft investigations and can be contacted by phone at (269) 337-4051 or fax at (269) 337-3163.

Other auto theft units in Michigan are listed below:

Agency Telephone
Genesee Auto Theft


Oakland County Auto Theft


Macomb County Auto Theft




MSP Downriver Auto Theft


MSP Monroe Auto Theft


MSP Western Wayne Auto Theft


MSP Washtenaw Auto Theft


Saginaw County Auto Theft


Grand Rapids Auto Theft