By Kathi Bliss
The Texas Department of Motor Vehicles has officially declared the month of July as “Watch Your Car Month.”
Historically, during the month of July, auto crime tends to spike, with additional car thefts and burglaries being reported to law enforcement agencies throughout the country.
Indeed, in Lockhart, though July has only just begun, car crime began to increase during the month of June, with three car thefts reported in Lockhart in the last week of June alone.
According to the Lockhart Police Department, two of the three auto thefts were the result of vehicles being left unlocked with the keys inside the vehicle; in the third, the owner reports having lost the keys to her vehicle and later finding it stolen.
At least one of the suspects in the three car thefts has been apprehended by press time.
The Auto Burglary and Theft Prevention Authority (ABTPA) kicked off Watch Your Car Month this week to remind drivers to make smart choices that can prevent auto crime.
“We’re asking drivers to take responsibility for their vehicles and what’s inside them,” said ABTPA Board Chair Carlos Garcia, who is also police chief for the Port of Brownsville. “Taking simple steps, like hiding personal belongings, can significantly decrease the chances of becoming a victim.”
ABTPA adds that the people committing auto crimes are not kids out for a joy ride. They are thieves who are likely to move on to home burglary, drug trafficking and other serious offenses.
While the overall number of statewide auto thefts has decreased dramatically over the long term — by 61 percent since 1991 — the latest Crime in Texas reshows a 2.5 percent increase in Texas auto thefts between 2011 and 2012.
According to the 2012 report, the number of statewide motor vehicle thefts increased to 64,982 in 2012, up from 63,379 in 2011. Stolen vehicles accounted for 8 percent of the total number of Texas property crimes in 2012.
The Texas Crime Analysis report also highlights how often vehicle thefts occur – one every eight minutes. The top ten list of stolen vehicles includes: Ford pickup trucks; Chevrolet pickup trucks; Dodge pickup trucks; Chevrolet Tahoe ; Honda Civic; Honda Accord; GMC pickup; Chevrolet Impala; Toyota Camry; and Nissan Altima.
ABTPA is launching a new marketing campaign this year – “It’s not Rocket Science” – to help drivers take simple steps to reduce the risk of car theft and burglary. The idea is to prevent auto crime by using a little common sense.
Simple Tips to Reduce Auto Crime
Always lock your vehicle and take your keys.
Never leave your car running and unattended.
Park in well-lit and high-traffic areas.
Take valuables with you when you are not in your vehicle.
Keep valuables out of sight.
For more information on ABTPA, and for prevention tips, go to http://txdmv.gov/motorists/consumer-protection/auto-theft-prevention.