APD warns car theft on the rise in Austin

Austin

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austin Police are warning people that car thefts are on the rise. They say it’s an upward trend, especially during the holidays. 

More than 80-percent come from people leaving their keys in the car. 

KXAN investigated to find out where these thieves are targeting and how to keep it from happening to you. 

In a matter of seconds, Anne Schumaker’s life changed. 

“He said, ‘where’s my car,’ and I said, ‘I don’t know,’” Schumaker said as she recalled the morning her husband’s car was stolen. “He was like, ‘well, I guess go to work and I’ll call the police.’”  

Schumaker did everything right — she locked the doors of her car and brought her keys inside for the night. Regardless, someone still found a way to break in and steal her car. But it wasn’t just her vehicle taken, it was also her sense of safety. 

“I’ve been very scared that, what if they come back? What if they get in the house? What if they steal another car? My daughter is sleeping feet away!” Schumaker said. 

The latest numbers from APD show over 2,000 vehicles have been stolen in Austin. A map shows no area is safe, and the most frequently hit location is the southwest section of the city. 

“That person saw you walk into the store and hears your car running and they are just going to jump into it and drive it until they get tired of driving or until they get caught and move on to the next one,” said Detective Sean Lott, with the Austin Police Department. 

Detective Lott tracks car thieves year-round. He says he’s seen an uptick lately. 

“Crimes of opportunity, yes, that’s what that is,” Detective Lott said. 

He says the reason for the trend is that people are just getting a little too comfortable. 83-percent of thefts come from people just leaving their keys in their car.

“Sometimes our comfort and convenience are contrary to our safety,” Detective Lott said. 

There’s an easy way to keep you from becoming a victim of car theft. One thing Detective Lott says you need to do is make sure you lock your car doors, because you don’t want to wake up with a surprise. 

“Hopefully seeing something like this will save someone else from having something taken from them,” Schumaker said.  

Austin police say they solve more than half of these car theft cases. It usually takes the department around two weeks to crack the case.

Is it illegal in Texas to keep your car running?

If you do leave your car running, you aren’t just risking it getting stolen, you’re also risking a ticket. 

In Austin, it’s illegal to leave your car running on the side of a highway or public road. 

However, in some parts of Texas, they take it even further. 

To combat car thieves, cities like Odessa have created ordinances that make it illegal to leave your engine running and the car unattended, even if you are in your own driveway.  

Doing this can net you a $140 fine. 

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