Criminals prepare for holiday shopping
The holiday season is upon us. And just as we prepare for Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and visiting the malls and shopping centers, thieves are also preparing to shop . . . . . in your vehicle.
The Texas Auto Burglary and Theft Prevention Authority (ABTPA), a division of the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles, reminds drivers that a vehicle is burglarized every two minutes and stolen every eight minutes in the state. These crimes can escalate during the holiday season when drivers frequently shop for gifts and travel to visit friends and family. During these times, drivers are more likely to leave belongings within view inside vehicles. The hustle and bustle of the season may also cause drivers to become negligent in locking doors and taking keys. To make matters worse, a thief won’t necessarily stop with taking your vehicle and the things inside. They may also look for personal documents and items that can help them steal your identity or gain access to your home, where they can burglarize additional property. In other words, the theft or burglary of your vehicle may simply be a gateway to the commission of additional crimes.
“Auto burglars are more likely to scout malls, shopping centers, entertainment venues, hotels, and other business parking lots this time of year looking for opportunities to break into vehicles,” said Michelle Lanham, program coordinator for ABTPA’s Reduce Auto Theft in Texas (RATT) public awareness task force at Denton Police Department. “Drivers need to understand that almost anything they leave inside their vehicles can be valuable to a thief. And when vehicles are left unlocked and unattended, drivers are inviting thieves to walk away with everything they see inside, which often includes gifts, purses, wallets, packages, electronics, suitcases, garage door openers, keys, and personal information.”
According to the Texas Department of Public Safety, thieves committed 214,294 acts of vehicle burglary and stole 65,671 vehicles in Texas during 2013. In some jurisdictions, more than half of the vehicles stolen had unlocked doors and keys left inside. But drivers can avoid becoming part of these statistics. The ABTPA and its 29 vehicle crime task forces in Texas promote a basic vehicle crime prevention philosophy: “Protect It, It’s Yours.” Motorists should practice three basic safety tips to help prevent theft and burglary during the holidays and throughout the year: remove belongings from view, secure vehicles, and never leave keys inside. In addition to practicing these prevention methodologies, drivers should park in areas that are well-lit, near surveillance cameras (if available), and near heavy foot and vehicle traffic. The more thieves feel threatened by detection, the less likely they are to focus on targets in such areas.
The Texas Auto Theft Prevention Authority (ATPA) was created by the Texas Legislature in 1991 to fund law enforcement programs to reduce vehicle thefts. The passing of House Bill 1887 in 2007 expanded the scope of the agency to include automobile burglary and added that term to the Authority’s title. For a free vehicle crimes prevention information packet; more information on the ABTPA, auto burglary, vehicle theft, prevention, statistics, public service announcements or contacts for any of ABTPA’s 29 Texas vehicle crime task forces; or to schedule a free presentation by task force personnel, call 800-CAR-WATCH or visit the ABTPA website at www.txwatchyourcar.com as well as the RATT website at www.texasratt.com.