Car thieves strike throughout the year, but July is the hottest month for thefts and burglaries, and authorities are battling back through education programs such as “Watch Your Car Month.”
Tyler Police Officer Gary King, who is assigned to the East Texas Auto Theft Task Force, said thieves strike quickly and often in Tyler, as well as other areas of the state.
King said last year there were 1,061 auto burglaries and 162 vehicles stolen in the Tyler city limits.
“The most common stolen vehicles across the state are the Ford truck followed by pickups by Chevrolet and Dodge,” he said.
However, King said in the Tyler area, criminals often steal cars such as old Buicks, Oldsmobile, and Chevrolet Caprices, among other “old school cars.”
“These are often the cars with the expensive wheels on them that you see around town,” he said.
Julia Bardnell, of the Auto Burglary and Theft Prevention Authority, said a vehicle crime is committed in Texas every two minutes.
“Just because citizens live or work in neighborhoods with low crime rates, those areas are not immune to vehicle crimes. Thieves will go where they believe they can find good opportunities, and that is virtually anywhere,” she said.
King said car thieves often hang around convenience stores and watch for motorists to pull up and leave their vehicle running while they go into the store.
“They wait around for the opportunity, then they jump in and take off,” he said.
King said a person leaving their vehicle running or open with the keys in it can be issued a citation.
He also said some insurance companies might not pay a claim if it is learned the vehicle was stolen because the driver left an unattended vehicle running.
“You need to take your keys with you, lock the doors and hide any valuables,” he said.
Ms. Bardnell said places thieves strike may include malls, gyms, movie theaters and even places of worship.
“We need to realize that thieves are always looking for the biggest financial payoff that can be gained in the shortest amount of time and with the greatest ease,” she said.
King said thieves often target women at fitness centers where they are witnessed getting out of their vehicles without their purses.
“You need to hide your valuable to discourage a thief walking by your car looking for something to steal,” he said.
Across the state in 2010 there were 68,220 vehicles reported stolen in Texas, and 263,479 vehicles were burglarized.