With the approaching holiday season upon us, we need to be aware that car burglaries and theft of contents from the inside of parked vehicles increases peak during this time. As people visit malls and businesses to shop we should be mindful of our surroundings.

Information and Advice from HCCP2:

Be mindful of your surroundings. ~ Constable Christopher E. Diaz

According to the Department of Public Safety (2014):

… a vehicle is stolen in Texas every 8 minutes, and a vehicle is burglarized every 2 minutes. Collectively, this amounts to over 68,000 annual car thefts and 261,166 thefts from cars. The data collected by Texas police agencies reveals alarming statistics.

For example:

_ Texas ranked #2 in the nation in car thefts, behind California.

_ Ford trucks, followed by Chevrolet and Dodge trucks accounted for 66% of all vehicle thefts.

_ The Honda Civil was the most popular car to steal in Texas.

_ The average loss of each individual theft was $790.00.

_ The most commonly stolen items are small electronics, CDs, personal belongings, car seats, and shopping packages and bags.

_ Stereos, wheels, airbags, truck tailgates, lights, mirrors, and catalytic converters accounted for most commonly stolen parts from vehicles.

TARGETS

Criminals take opportunities to steal property when the property is relatively unsecured.  Vehicles without trunks with exposed personal property, electronics, and anything of value are favorite targets. When there are briefcases, day planners, wallets and purses, jewelry, keys, mail, or anything of value easily visible, criminals will break a window or open unlocked doors to steal the property. 

WHAT THE BURGLAR SEES

Malls and parking lots are favorite places, as there are many vehicles, many unsuspecting drivers, low lighting conditions, and few people loitering around the parking areas. Also, the risk of apprehension is low, and the burglar does not usually experience any difficulty in selling computers and laptops, electronic gadgets, cell phones, MP3 players, GPS units, backpacks, etc. Some burglars steal checkbooks, cash, credit or debit cards, and private mail. They then either sell or exploit the owner name to steal their identity.

In increasing instances, expensive vehicles, and those which have been observed leaving a business such as a jewelry store or a bank, are specific targets for criminals and gangs. Often, an armed gunman will approach a driver at a red light or intersection, or in a parking lot and demand that the driver leave the vehicle under the threat of deadly force. In some cases, the “carjackers,” will shoot or stab a driver, leaving serious injuries or fatal wounds. Carjacking involves the use or threatened use of deadly force to steal the vehicle, and fit within the Texas Penal Code definition of aggravated robbery, which is a taking of property by force, threat of force, or by causing injury or death.

It is important to realize that in a carjacking situation, the safest course of action is to allow the perpetrator to take the possessions and property he or she is demanding under threat of deadly force. Too many owners have been seriously wounded or killed in an attempt to prevent the loss of property that may easily be replaced. It is much easier to replace an insured or protected item than it is to recover from a stab wound, gunshot, or a fatal injury.  The better form of judgment is to consider obtaining a detailed physical description of the suspect(s) and reporting immediately to the police.

PREVENT BEING VICTIMIZED

There are many precautions to be taken to avoid a car burglary or theft. The following list details preventative measures to reduce risk and increase protection.

1. Take, Lock, Hide. This campaign has been successful in convincing owners to take possessions and valuables out of the vehicle or place them out of plain view or in their trunk. Hiding property is the least preventative measure to be taken.

2. Lock your vehicle, all doors, and ensure the windows are completely raised.

3. Set alarms or anti-theft devices.

4. Park in well-lit areas.

5. In after-market electronics, take the faceplate with your or place it in your trunk

6. Record serial numbers, make, models, and brands

7. Consider placing identifying information on items with engraver (drivers license number, NOT social security number or date of birth, as these may inspire identity theft).

8. Be aware of your surroundings and report suspicious activity. Any of the below would be suspicious:

_ Persons hanging out in the areas adjacent to parking lots

_ Persons disseminating handbills and flyers on vehicles

_ Persons disembarking from a vehicle, with the vehicle continuing to cruise in the parking lot

_ Persons walking to cars and lifting the handles in search of unlocked doors.

9. When possible, travel in small groups, as a suspect is less likely to attempt a multiple offense when alone. However, while risk is diminished, there are some criminals who work in teams.

10. Do not leave the garage door opener in plain view.

11. Devices such as steering wheel locks and locking wheel nuts prevent thefts.

12. Never leave your vehicle unattended with the engine running.

13. Be careful with car sales, as thieves may pose as potential buyers. Do not let the buyer go alone to test drive the car. Be careful with accepting personal or bank checks. If in doubt, contact the bank.

14. If your trunk can be opened from inside the vehicle, lock this feature when you leave. Do not use “hide-a-key” as thieves know how or where to detect these.

By following these simple guidelines, you will prevent the likelihood of car burglary or theft, and will enjoy a safe and secure holiday season.

For more information, or to schedule a crime prevention presentation to your community or group, please contact the office of Constable Chris Diaz. The office is located at 101 S. Richey, Ste. C, Pasadena, Texas 77506. The telephone number is 713.477.2766. The email address is info@hccp2.com.