2010-07-15 / Community News

“Watch Your Car Month” Emphasizes Driver Role in Vehicle Crimes Prevention

by Michelle Lanham with
Texas Auto Burglary and Theft Prevention Authority

Every seven minutes, a car is stolen in Texas, and every two minutes, a vehicle is burglarized for contents or parts. Historically, July is the month 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 theft of personal information, house keys, and garage door openers 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 the 2010 “Watch Your Car Month,” which is being recognized in 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 about laws that make it illegal to leave keys in ignitions and engines running in vehicles while unattended. They will be spreading the message by issuing mock citations to drivers who leave keys and belongings in their vehicles and displaying “Got Your Keys?” static window clings at convenience stores, gas stations, day care centers, video stores, fitness centers, and other places of business.

In 2009, approximately 76,617 vehicles were stolen and 272,791 vehicles were burglarized in Texas resulting in combined financial losses of $985 million. And in over one-third of all auto theft incidents, keys were left inside, which means the vehicle owner was an unwitting accomplice in the theft and, in some cases, an accomplice in additional crimes. Recent statistics from Texas law enforcement studies indicate the top three locations from which vehicles are burglarized and stolen are: residences/ homes (42.1%), public parking lots/garages (32.5%), and roadways/highways/alleys (11.2%), which prove no area is truly safe from vehicle crime activity.

“We can not stress enough to Texas drivers that they hold the keys to preventing auto theft and burglary,” said Michelle Lanham, program manager for ABTPA’s Reduce Auto Theft in Texas (RATT) task force. “By leaving vehicles unattended with keys in the ignition, drivers are inviting thieves to steal. Individuals who step away from their running vehicles for only a minute to buy soda, pay for gas, or engage in other perceived “quick” activities are providing the easy get-away opportunities thieves look for everyday. Any neighborhood and any type of vehicle can be targeted. And absolutely anything an individual leaves in their vehicle might be of value to a thief. We strongly suggest that drivers always leave their vehicles the way they appeared the day they rolled off the factory floor — 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 won’t happen to them or that it’s okay to leave an engine running for a few minutes to keep a vehicle cool. These victim-assisted auto crimes could be prevented simply by taking the keys. Texas drivers must become educated about these problems and solutions to avoid becoming victims.”

About Us: The Texas Auto Burglary and Theft Prevention Authority (ABTPA), an office of the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles, supports a statewide network of theft reduction initiatives. Since its inception in 1991, ABTPA has funded 485 grants which have reduced motor vehicle theft by 66%.

For more information on ABTPA, to reach one of ABTPA’s 28 fiscal year 2010 grant programs, or to obtain prevention tips, go to www.txwatchyourcar.com, www.texasratt.com, or call the RATT task force at (800) 227-9282. You can also fan us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter.

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