(Walker County, TX) “Man in Stolen Car Kills Army Veteran.” “Stolen Truck Used to Steal ATM Machine.” “Car Burglary Suspect Caught Using Stolen Credit Cards.” “Gunman Drives Stolen Camaro Into Armored Van.” These are just a few of many headlines Texans have recently faced regarding vehicle theft and burglary incidents plaguing our state. For those who have never been affected by vehicle crimes, these may be just random stories among many others. But for those who have fallen victim to auto theft and burglary, these are painful reminders that thieves stand ready to violate our way of life and the things important to us including family, home, finances, lifestyle, security and other possessions.
Vehicle thieves are constantly looking for opportunities to take advantage of drivers. And historically, more vehicle thefts and burglaries occur in Texas during summer months, which is why the Reduce Auto Theft in Texas (RATT) statewide vehicle crimes public awareness task force has declared July “Watch Your Car Month.” During “Watch Your Car Month”, representatives from task forces funded by the Texas Auto Burglary and Theft Prevention Authority (ABTPA) will be working in their communities reminding drivers that they must protect their vehicles and possessions inside to avoid victimization by thieves. If drivers leave themselves vulnerable to theft, they are encouraged to change their behavior to avoid vehicle criminals. In addition, drivers should recognize that thieves want to strike in locations where we are most likely to leave belongings and be separated from our vehicles for longer periods of time. Those places may include homes, malls, gyms, movie theaters, hotels, . . . . even places of worship! Anywhere! In other words, thieves are looking for the biggest financial payoff in the shortest amount of time and with the greatest ease.
In 2013, vehicle thefts in Texas totaled 65,671, which means a car was stolen every eight minutes. Any vehicle is a potential target, and those most stolen are at least five years old. In 2014, the most targeted makes/models in Texas included: 1) Ford Pickup, 2) Chevrolet Pickup, 3) Dodge Pickup, 4) Honda Civic, and 5) Chevrolet Tahoe. In 2013, reported vehicle burglaries in Texas totaled 214,294, which means parts or contents were stolen every two minutes.
Texas drivers can help law enforcement decrease vehicle crimes by practicing simple prevention methodologies. First, don’t aid thieves by leaving doors unlocked and keys inside. Once a vehicle is stolen, any number of additional offenses could take place. The vehicle may be used to commit another crime. It may be operated erratically and involved in an accident. It may even be dismantled so the parts can be sold to fund other crimes ranging from drug use to terrorism.
Second, remove items from view inside your vehicle. Much like thefts involving the entire vehicle, drivers often unintentionally assist burglars by leaving belongings visible. Items left behind can result in a number of additional offenses. Keys or garage door openers can provide thieves access to homes, where belongings, money, and personal information could be taken. If a pet or child is left unattended in a vehicle, they could become additional victims of a thief. Items such as purses, briefcases, bags, electronics, clothing, or accessories can be stolen, leading to financial ruin, identity theft or resale of items to other unknowing victims.
Third, be aware! No device exists to stop carjackers, so a driver’s best defense is acknowledging surroundings. Watching situations around you can be the difference between becoming a victim and getting home safely.
For additional tips on preventing vehicle crime, information on “Watch Your Car Month”, or to contact another task force, call 800-CAR-WATCH.