Amid a local increase in thefts of motorcycles and scooters, Santa Barbara police encourage owners to park their vehicles in a garage, or to otherwise use a heavy-duty cable and sturdy lock to fasten the vehicle to an object or in a way that disables the wheels. (Sam Goldman / Noozhawk photo)

The driver of a stolen Porsche lost control of the car and crashed into a stone wall near Oprah Winfrey’s estate in Montecito earlier this month. After allegedly brandishing a knife at two men who came to his aid, the suspect ran off and disappeared.

The theft of the Porsche — one of two cars taken from the same Hope Ranch garage the week before — came amid what authorities say has been a sharp uptick in stolen motorcycles and scooters around Santa Barbara.

Out of 37 stolen-vehicle reports from November, two dozen were for the two-wheeled variety, Santa Barbara police Sgt. Riley Harwood told Noozhawk.

Auto theft investigators, he said, have seen a notable increase in such crimes over the past year, with last month the worst they’ve logged in a long time.

Meanwhile, Santa Barbara County sheriff’s deputies are actively investigating the theft of the Porsche, which was reported missing the night of Nov. 26 after a Hope Ranch resident discovered his garage had been broken into and two cars had been stolen.

Sheriff’s spokeswoman Kelly Hoover said the white Porsche was recovered the afternoon of Dec. 2 after it hit a wall near the entrance to Knowlwood Tennis Club, at 1675 East Valley Road just east of Winfrey’s estate.

She said the suspect had been reported driving erratically, and allegedly brandished a knife at witnesses before fleeing the crash scene.

Witnesses told Noozhawk that the man ran up the Knowlwood driveway and through the tennis club campus, headed southeast in the direction of the Ennisbrook neighborhood. He eventually got away.

Hoover described the suspect as a heavyset white male adult, about 5-foot-8, with short brown or black hair.

Inside the car, she said, deputies found a half-gram of heroin, syringes and narcotics-related paraphernalia, along with a stolen wallet, credit cards, gift cards, an Apple computer, tools and a stolen bicycle.

No one was injured in the crash or the subsequent confrontation, she said.

Harwood said 24 motorcycles and scooters were reported stolen in November. Most of them were smaller models like dirt bikes, which are easier to hide and move, he added.

He said the bikes were mostly pushed away and held at nearby “stash locations,” before being taken elsewhere.

Police have recovered several of the motorcycles and scooters, Harwood said, but many had been painted a different color with some of their parts changed out.

Owners are encouraged to store their bikes and scooters in a garage, or to otherwise use a heavy-duty cable and sturdy lock to fasten the vehicle to an object or in a way that disables the wheels.

Many motorcycles’ steering also can be locked by turning the handlebars all the way to the side, Harwood said.

Noozhawk staff writer Sam Goldman can be reached at Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.