By CATHY MOUNCE
Register Staff Writer
Historically speaking, with more vehicle thefts and burglaries occurring in Texas during this month, July has been designated “Watch your Car Month.” The designation also emphasizes that when a vehicle is stolen, it may be only the beginning of several more criminal acts that could occur.
If items are left in a vehicle such as mail, check books, a laptop and other information, the auto thief may now have access to personal information such as an address, place of work, finances, interests and hobbies of not only yourself but other family members also including children.
There were over 64,982 reported vehicle thefts in Texas in 2012 which meant that every eight minutes a vehicle was stolen.
In looking for a vehicle to steal, thieves first look for unlocked doors and keys that are left in the ignition providing easy access. Once stolen, the vehicle is many times used to commit other crimes. Subsequently it may be located intact but often times may be found trashed or stripped of parts which are then sold for other things ranging from drugs to terrorism.
The Texas Auto Burglary and Theft Prevention Authority (ABTPA) funds hundreds of representatives within 29 vehicle crime task forces state wide and will be working in communities to remind Texas drivers that they must protect their vehicles and all possessions inside to avoid being a victim of a thief.
If a vehicle has been stolen, the owner must now protect himself and other property. Keys or garage door openers can provide thieves access to homes. If a pet or child is left unattended in a vehicle, they could also become additional victims of a crime.
In North Texas six of ABTPA’s task forces are operating and administered by agencies including the Dallas Police Department, the Dallas County Sheriff’s office, The Tarrant County Sheriff’s office, Mansfield Police Department, Paris Police Department and the University of North Texas (UNT).
Program Manager of the Reduce Auto Theft in Texas (RATT) and ABTPA task force member at UNT, Michelle Lanham said that the three most stolen vehicles in Texas were pickup trucks with the Ford F150 topping the list. The Chevy Silverado and the Dodge Ram round out the top three.
Regarding recovery rate Lanham said, “Texas recovered 56 percent of stolen vehicles in 2011 with 2012 not officially determined yet.”
Lanham also stated that 78 percent of stolen vehicles recovered in Texas were stolen in the same area and 22 percent were recovered in a different jurisdiction.
“This indicates that stolen vehicles tend to remain in the same general area where the theft occurs,” Lanham continued. “Those not recovered elsewhere or not recovered at all fall prey to a variety of thieves including joyriders, those simply looking for transportation, those who want to commit other crimes, professionals who break the vehicle down at a ‘chop shop’ to sell parts, drug addicts supporting habits and export thieves who take the vehicles to Mexico or ship them overseas.”
Regarding stolen vehicle activity in Cooke County Gainesville Chief of Police Steven Fleming said that from May first to July second the Gainesville Police Department has taken five stolen vehicle reports.
Fleming confirmed, “Three of the stolen vehicles have been recovered and two other vehicles reported stolen elsewhere have also been recovered.”
Fleming also said that according to the Texas Department of Motor Vehicle website at www.txdmv.gov, the following tips are suggested for protecting your vehicle: Hide your valuables, take your keys, lock your car, park in well-lit or heavily-trafficked areas, give valet parking the ignition key only, never leave a car running unattended and if possible install an anti-theft device.
If a vehicle is stolen, Fleming said to contact the police with license plate identification including the VIN number and description of vehicle in order to file a report, use your cell phone or camera to take a photo of your car and license plate number, report the loss to your insurance provide and notify the lien holder if applicable.