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Burglars target unattended cars during holiday
This holiday season, auto burglars will shop the easy way – by stealing gifts, purses, wallets, packages, electronics or other valuables left in plain sight inside vehicles.
Every two minutes, a vehicle is burglarized in Texas and the contents stolen. These crimes escalate during the holiday season when people shop more often. Unfortunately, drivers often don’t take necessary precautions to avoid becoming burglary victims.
The Texas Automobile Burglary and Theft Prevention Authority (ABTPA), a division of the Texas Department of Transportation, offers three basic safety tips to motorists to help prevent vehicle crimes during the holidays and throughout the year: hide belongings from view, lock vehicles and take keys.
“Mainly you need to remember to lock your doors,” Ennis Det. Sgt. Mike Hopson said. “Don’t leave valuables visible in the car. Put presents and other valuables in your trunk.”
Last year, thieves committed more than 262,000 acts of vehicle burglary and stole more than 94,000 vehicles in Texas. In some jurisdictions, more than half of reported thefts occurred because vehicle doors were unlocked and keys were left inside.
“We want everyone to enjoy the holiday season and not experience the violation and frustration of having their vehicles burglarized or stolen,” said Charles Caldwell, interim director of the Texas ABTPA. “We encourage all vehicle owners and operators to help prevent such crimes from happening by practicing simple theft prevention measures.”
When vehicles are stolen, thieves have easy access to everything left inside, including items such as garage door openers, house keys and personal information, which can all lead to additional and more serious crimes as well as further victimization of the vehicle owner.
“We know that auto burglars scout malls, shopping centers and other retail parking lots this time of year looking for the perfect opportunity to break into vehicles,” said Michelle Lanham, program coordinator for ABTPA’s Reduce Auto Theft in Texas (RATT) public awareness task force at the University of North Texas Caruth Police Institute in Dallas. “Within seconds, these criminals can get inside a car, steal the contents and be on their way from the scene. And experienced thieves can steal a vehicle without keys in less than a minute. Texas drivers need to understand that carelessness with items left inside vehicles actually helps thieves carry out their crimes more efficiently and potentially engage in further criminal activity.”
Hopson said it isn’t just about holiday gifts. Shoppers should remember to remove their laptops, GPS navigation systems and any other items of value out of sight.
“Keep these things concealed wherever you go,” Hopson said. “That includes your wallet and purse. But it all starts with locking your doors.”
Hopson emphasized locking car doors because although experienced car burglars can break a window to gain access, stealing from an unlocked vehicle is much more inconspicuous.
“If the door is unlocked then they’ll just unlock the trunk or go through the vehicle looking like the owner of the car,” Hopson said.
The Texas Legislature created the Texas Auto Theft Prevention Authority (ATPA) in 1991 to fund programs to reduce vehicle thefts. The passing of House Bill 1887 in 2007 expanded the scope of the agency to include automobile burglary prevention and added the term “burglary” to the Authority’s title.
For more information on the ABTPA, auto burglary, vehicle theft, prevention, statistics, contacts for any of ABTPA’s 29 Texas vehicle crimes task forces, public service announcements or to schedule an interview with task force personnel, call 800-CAR-WATCH or visit the ABTPA website at www.txwatchyourcar.com.

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Posted by on Nov 28 2008. Filed under News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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