Car thefts, burglaries cost Texans more than $1B a year

Travis County

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Texas Law enforcement agencies say the most cars are stolen during the month of July each year and in an effort to raise awareness, Travis County Commissioners are calling it “Watch Your Car Month.”

Vehicle thefts and burglaries cost Texans more than $1 billion each year, according to the Texas Automobile Burglary and Theft Prevention Authority.

RELATED: Are you driving one of Austin’s Top 5 most stolen vehicles?

“The level of motor vehicle burglaries and thefts has remained fairly stable, however, the monetary losses to the public from these crimes rose to over $1 billion, partially due to the increase in the number of vehicles less than five years old being stolen,” the group wrote in its 2018 activity and funds report.

ABTPA funds 24 taskforces involving Texas law enforcement officers with money collected from charging a $2 assessment on every motor vehicle insurance policy.

In Central Texas, the task force is made up of law enforcement from 17 counties and is called the Sheriff’s Combined Auto Theft Taskforce

Its investigators say vehicle thefts and burglaries have become a billion-dollar-a-year criminal trade in Texas.

That’s why each taskforce can use bait cars, bait trailers, bait equipment, license plate readers, surveillance equipment and, when authorized by courts, tracking devices to catch thieves.

In its latest report from 2018, taskforces statewide provided the following data:

  • License plate reader deployments: 2,803
  • Alert notifications: 4,716
  • Number of vehicles recovered as a result of LPR detection: 1,786
  • Number of arrests subsequent to LPR detection: 75
  • Bait vehicle deployments: 1,937
  • Number of arrests from bait vehicle deployments: 125
  • Other types of bait and tracked device deployments: 2,469

“It seems to work out very well for us,” says Williamson County Sheriff Robert Chody.

While technology helps officers, Chody says “the biggest hurdle is advising the public to do one big thing and that’s lock their doors.”

The Sheriff says last year, 34 cars were burglarized in one night in a Williamson County neighborhood and “every one of those doors was left unlocked, unsecured.”

“That’s the biggest message we are trying to get out to people is secure your vehicle and let the burglar do what he’s going to do and work for it and then I think we will see a decline in that aspect,” he says.

Statewide taskforces report their efforts have reduced vehicle thefts by over 60% and recovering stolen vehicles has increased by 20% since The ABTPA was created in 1991.

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