AUSTIN (KXAN) — A business owner said he lost more than $8,000 in cash and other personal belongings in a possible jugging case, which police warned is happening more frequently in the Austin area.

James Goldsworth said he stopped at a bank on Great Hills Trail in north Austin on June 8 to collect boxes of change for his convenience store. He then drove two miles north to a barbecue restaurant nearby, parked in the back and went inside for a few minutes. When he returned, he found someone broke out his truck’s window and stole all the money as well as his briefcase, electronics and personal items.

Tarp covers James Goldsworth’s truck window after someone broke it out in an apparent jugging case. (Photo/James Goldsworth)

Goldsworth said he had even hidden the boxes from view in his truck, which he suspected someone could have seen if they watched him outside the bank and then followed him.

“It’s a pretty crappy situation,” he said. “I lost a lot of stuff that was in my truck that was sentimental to me that I’ve had for a long time that was given to me by my mom. The stuff that got stolen was sentimental, and it’s just a horrible situation. You definitely have a feeling of [being] violated.”

Goldsworth first filed a report about the vehicle break-in with 311, which is part of the policy enacted in October last year by Austin police when a crime is no longer in progress. He said he is expecting to hear from an officer soon about the potential jugging incident. However, a police report is now on file. KXAN is awaiting further information from police related to this crime.

“What I’ve been telling everybody, you just need to be aware of your surroundings, aware of who’s in the parking lot. Be more aware than I was,” Goldsworth said. “I was just oblivious to it. Obviously, I won’t be anymore. I didn’t ever think this would happen to me, and it did.”

Increase in jugging cases

Austin police warned the community recently about the rise in jugging cases. Police said there have been at least 62 of these kinds of incidents over the last year at local Bank of America, Wells Fargo and Chase Bank locations.

Officers explained that jugging is a form of robbery. A suspect follows a victim from a bank, ATM or check-cashing store to their next location. There, the suspect threatens or assaults the victim and demands or takes the money, police said. They also said the crime usually happens when cash is visible, as the victim leaves the bank or ATM.

Austin police suggested the following tips to avoid becoming a “jugging” victim:

  • Take note of anyone that is hanging around in the lobby of the bank or parking lot that does not appear immediately occupied.
  • Try not to be distracted while in the financial institution: on your phone, wearing earbuds, etc.
  • Notice any vehicles that may follow you out of the parking lot and make sure you are not being followed.
  • Before leaving the counter/ATM after receiving cash, secure it in a different bag (other than the small zipper cash bags or envelopes utilized), such as a briefcase or purse.
  • Lock your car doors when you get into your vehicle.
  • If you believe you are being followed from a financial institution for any length, please call 911 or drive to the nearest police station, fire/EMS station.
  • Speak with security at your bank to see if they can assist you with large withdrawals or if they have any safety suggestions when withdrawing a large amount of cash. 

Concerns of neighboring communities

Austin seeing an increase in jugging cases is putting police in nearby Cedar Park on alert.

Det. Anthony Bridgewater with the Cedar Park Police Department said officers have not investigated any incidents of jugging this year. However, they looked into several cases of it happening around the time the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020.

“Anything that happens in Austin slowly trickles to the surrounding cities,” Bridgewater said. “The crimes that start trending in Austin, we obviously pay attention to because there’s just a matter of time before it starts coming back into our city.”

The detective said the past Cedar Park cases appear to be random, but they seem to involve people sitting in bank parking lots and targeting those who carry out the biggest envelopes or bank bags. He reiterated how important it is for everyone to be observant.

“If you see someone sitting in their car, and as you’re walking out — granted, people sit in their cars all the time to fill out checks, to write withdrawal forms and all that stuff. That in itself is not a clue,” Bridgewater said. “But if you notice it, and as you’re pulling out and they start following you, that’s a huge indicator.”

He said people should call 911 if they notice someone following them and drive to the closest police building, fire station or EMS facility. Try to get a good description of the suspect vehicle, too, he said.

Bridgewater also said the cases almost always involve the suspects breaking into people’s cars once they stop somewhere after following them. He said Cedar Park police have made some arrests in the past, but these suspects are usually difficult to take into custody.

“It’s hard because a lot of times they use rental cars, stolen cars, cars with stolen license plates, so sometimes they are hard to track down,” Bridgewater said. “Every once in a while, we get lucky, and we’re able to put people in jail for these thefts.”

How to report info about recent jugging cases

The Austin Police Department is asking anyone with information about recent incidents to call the APD Robbery tip line at (512) 974-5092, Crime Stoppers at 512-472-TIPS or use the Crime Stoppers App.

Tips can also be submitted by downloading APD’s mobile app, Austin PD.