President’s Message

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Dear IAATI members. 

It is a great honour to serve as your 2021/22 President and I certainly feel the weight of responsibility and expectation that comes with the appointment.   I acknowledge the contribution of all those who have served on the Board before me and I am aware pressure to ensure that I protect what they have achieved while help supporting IAATI continue to develop and grow.

I would like to start by acknowledging the outstanding work that Robert Force, Ana Laura Brizuela, Jennifer King-Sullivan, Joni Tangeman and all the members the 2021 Seminar Committee have done in organizing and hosting the 2021 Seminar, especially given all the restraints they have confronted.  I was truly disappointed that I could not be there in person.  Yet I know I am not alone, as there are many others all around the world that would have loved to have been able to be in Denver during the conference.    I am, however, extremely grateful to the Seminar Committee, the team at Encore and all the sponsors and speakers who have enabled so much of the 69th international conference to be live streamed and recorded.  This is the first time we have tried a hybrid international seminar and was a great success.  It has provided an opportunity for any IAATI member, no matter where they are based, to participate in both the seminar classes and our AGM.  While we all would prefer to meet face to face, this hybrid approach is providing greater access for all members to our Seminar and AGM and is something I am sure will continue in the future.

I cannot continue without recognising the exceptional service that Tinus Odendal has delivered to IAATI.  As you know Tinus has effectively served as our President for the last 2½ years.  It has been, arguably the most difficult time to serve as President, with factors and issues beyond his control.

Tinus is only one of a few people that I would have wanted to serve as our President during these extremely difficult times.  He managed all the challenges extremely professionally, always remaining calm, and consulted carefully before making decisions. Most importantly he always acted in IAATI’s best interest. Tinus, you have been an outstanding leader who has left me and the incoming team extremely large shoes to fill.  I hope I can continue the fine example you have set.  On a personal note I wish to thank Tinus for the support and guidance he have given to me over the last 5 years as well as for your service to IAATI.  

I would also like to thank a number of other people that have supported me and given me valuable advice during my time in IAATI.  In no particular order I thank Mark Pollard and the members of the Australian Board, Bob Hasbrouck, Chris McDonold, John Abounader and Heidi Jordan, as well as my fellow Vice Presidents Ana Laura Brizuela, Reg Phillips, Nathan McGanty and the Board members. I would particularly like to thank past President John O’Byrne who has been with me nearly my entire IAATI journey and who has spent numerous hours listening to my ideas and providing many wise words of wisdom. Thank you John, you have been a great mentor to me.

Finally, I wish to thank my wife, Kathryn, and our sons Matthew and Martin.  I have been a member of IAATI for 26 years and a board member on the Australian and/or International Board for 24 years, and attended approximately 35 IAATI seminars.  During this time my family have made a lot of sacrifices to allow me to pursue my IAATI work, including many periods alone while I was off at seminars many 1,000’s of kilometres away. I owe then so much, and I am truly grateful for allowing me to purse my IAATI passion.

We all know the world is going through some difficult times. Yet while we are dealing with various challenges, life goes on and criminals are still committing vehicle related crimes.   So despite these conditions IAATI needs to adapt and find new ways of meeting the needs of our members, their employers and our industry and government partners.

As I stated earlier this hybrid seminar proves we can work through barriers and still operate effectively.

Similarly, the Northeast Regional Chapter has demonstrated that despite all the constraints, they have continued to provide services to their members via their monthly webinar program and virtual seminar.  Using these tools they have continued to not only attract new members but also attract sponsors to keep their Chapter financial.   They have shown us all it can be achieved - Well done!

Likewise, the UK Branch has re-launched its Alliance Magazine which they are distributing to their members to ensure they are engaged.

During the difficult times I encourage the Board and all committees to focus on our fundamentals, especially

Training and support for our members

Maintaining our relationships with Government, industry and private sector partners. 

We all need each other, as none of us can solve the problems alone.

This need to focus on the fundamentals is particularly important as agencies around the world are facing challenges.  Law Enforcement is experiencing severe financial and personnel pressures.  Most agencies have incurred large overtime expenses, have had staff relocated to COVID related activities, and have accumulated large backlogs of leave entitlements.  Over the next few years, they will all be searching for ways of reducing their costs and many vehicle theft units are likely to see staffing cuts.

In other parts of the world, there are additional challenges.  In Australia, for example, theft levels have decreased during COVID and nationally our total theft numbers are almost 70% fewer than they were at the turn of the century.   Consequently, agencies are continuing to close or reduce resources to their vehicle theft units and next month, Australia’s National Motor Vehicle Theft Reduction Council, which is our equivalent of a national ATPA, is no longer being funded and will close down. 

So although, vehicle crime rates may be different in different regions of the world, we all face financial and human resource issues.   We all need to share information and continue to find ways to work with each other and learn from each other, so we can work faster, smarter with less resources. This point was also emphasized by many speakers during last month’s International Conference, including by President Odendal and Chief Matthew Packard from the Colorado State Patrol who both highlighted the importance of sharing information and working together with a range of partners. This is where IAATI plays such an important role and why we all need IAATI now more than ever. 

I am pleased to say that while the International Board is dealing with the impact of COVID, it is not letting that weigh us down.  Over the last 18 months there have been many extremely positive initiatives that will have benefits for our members and partners.

For example:

Many members may not know about the great work of the Vehicle Identification Committee.  Just one of the services they provide is an identification service to Police.  Comprising a range of manufacturer and industry experts the committee assists agencies to identify a vehicle make, model, series and potentially grade from often low-quality photos or video footage.

Then there is the exceptional work being performed by the ATPA Committee and its various subcommittees. 

The Public Outreach Subcommittee recently launched a campaign called “No Regret – Lock it or Lose it”.

The Catalytic Converter Theft Prevention Subcommittee is working with industry partners to develop advice and recommendations for marking catalytic converters and developing model legislation around the sale and disposal of catalytic converters.

The development of a range of best practise papers covering a range of topics

The LATAM Branch has been leading the way on partnering with Universities and governments agencies to improve training and policy development.

Along a similar line the Vehicle Cyber Crime Committee is working on a major announcement to partner with industry and a university in the near future.

The Counter Measure Standards Committee has made significant contributions to the review of the US and Canadian standards for engine immobilisers.

The Certification program has been updated and the committee has exciting plans for how they want to develop the Certification program further including the development of new modules and integration of video-based modules.

The Strategic Plan Committee - has developed and implemented a new 5-year plan for IAATI and is also doing the important work of measuring and monitoring the progress towards our targets and KPIs.

The Finance Committee has worked hard complete review of all aspects of our finances.  It has made several tough decisions and has significantly reduced our expenses.  At the same time, it is looking at how it can increase income and provide funds that can be used to support new ideas and initiatives that will benefit our members.

However, to do this work, we rely on the support of members, and a regular influx of ‘new blood' on our committees and boards.  We need a good blend of experienced committee and board members together with the ideas and energy of new members.

Although it may appear to many members that IAATI is managed by a small number of people, as they are the names and faces you see most frequently, I can assure you that is not the case.  IAATI like all volunteer-based organisations depend on a large team of individuals at the local, state, national and International levels.   So while you may recognize the names and faces of a few, we depend on hundreds of members who work on our various committees, volunteer to present or organise our seminars and training events, and to submit articles for our publications, website and social media sites. 

I wish to thank all members who have taken the time to assist IAATI and I encourage everyone else to consider nominating for a committee or some other role within the Association at either your local or international level.   I am keen to hear from anyone who wishes to be involved on a committee, the board or can help in any other way. 

In closing I would just like to reiterate that while the world has changed considerably over the last 18 months, we all need IAATI now more than ever.  IAATI is strong and well supported and there are many exciting initiatives happening.  We have a lot of highly motivated and dedicated people, and I can see a bright and positive future for IAATI.

I encourage you to continue to support IAATI in any way you can. I encourage the Branches and Chapters and the various committees to share information and to work together.  And for us all to focus on why IAATI exists – to educate and support those professionals, government and industry partners working to fight vehicle crime.

Thanks again to Tinus Odendal and the outgoing board and committee members for your efforts of the last two years.

Thank you, the members, for your vote of confidence in me as your next President.  I am proud and excited to serve, and I assure you and I will work as hard as I can in this role.   I look forward to seeing you all in-person in Chicago in 2022.

Paul Thomas

President

2021 - 2022