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2009-07-09 digital edition

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2009-07-09 / General Stories

Vehicle Crimes Increase During Summer Months

(Dallas, TX) Every five-and-ahalf minutes, a car is stolen in Texas, and every two-and-a-half minutes, a vehicle is burglarized for contents or parts. Historically, July and August are the two months when the most vehicle thefts and burglaries occur in Texas. Stolen vehicles can be used to commit other crimes, including theft, drug and weapon smuggling, human trafficking, domestic/international terrorism, and countless other offenses. In addition, vehicle burglary incidents that result in the theft of personal identification items, house keys, and garage door openers left inside vehicles are leading to cases of identity theft. Now, more than ever, Texas drivers must become actively involved in vehicle crime prevention by practicing "Hide, Take, Lock": hide belongings, take keys, and lock vehicle doors. The Texas Auto Burglary and Theft Prevention Authority (ABTPA) will highlight this philosophy throughout "Watch Your Car Month," which is being recognized this month of July.

During "Watch Your Car Month", hundreds of law enforcement task force representatives funded by ABTPA will be working in their communities reminding Texas drivers to take precautions when leaving their vehicles unattended. To raise awareness about the role of auto theft in secondary crimes, ABTPA personnel will heavily promote the "You Hold the Key" and "Where You Are, They Are" campaigns, which are designed to remind all owners and operators that vehicles should never be left running while unattended, and valuables should not be left inside.

In 2008, approximately 85,400 vehicles were stolen in Texas resulting in financial losses of more than $700 million. And in almost half of all auto theft incidents, keys were left inside, which means the vehicle owner was, in some cases, an unwitting accomplice to more heinous crimes. Recent statistics from Texas law enforcement agencies indicate the top three locations from which vehicles are stolen are: residences/homes (41.6%), public parking lots/public garages (28.7%), and roadways/highways/ alleys (12.2%), which proves no area is truly safe from vehicle crime activity.

"We can not stress enough to Texas drivers that they 'hold the key' to auto burglary and theft prevention," said Michelle Lanham, program coordinator for ABTPA's Reduce Auto Theft in Texas (RATT) task force, which is housed at the University of North Texas at Dallas Caruth Police Institute at Dallas Police Department. "Anything an individual leaves in their vehicle might be of value to a thief, including anything that has the vehicle owner's name or address on it. We strongly suggest that vehicle owners and drivers always leave their vehicles the way they appeared the day they rolled off the factory floor — leave nothing more in the vehicle than the parts it is made with."

Charles Caldwell, ABTPA director, adds, "We know for a fact that criminals go where vehicle owners go. No one should ever become comfortable with the thought that vehicle crimes can't or won't happen to them. Auto theft and burglary can happen anywhere, anytime, and to anyone. Texas drivers must become educated about these problems and solutions to avoid becoming victims. Practicing techniques to prevent vehicle crimes, such as utilizing visible deterrents and anti-theft devices, will help discourage thieves and make neighborhoods safer."

The ABTPA, an office of the Texas Department of Transportation, was created by the Texas Legislature in 1991 to fund programs to reduce vehicle thefts. Since 1991, the vehicle theft rate has been reduced by approximately 60%. For more information on Texas vehicle crime statistics, the Texas ABTPA, contacts for any of ABTPA's 29 vehicle crimes task forces in Texas, public service announcements, or to schedule an interview with task force personnel, call 800-CARWATCH or visit the ABTPA website: www.txwatchyourcar.com.

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