"Watch Your Car Month" Emphasizes the Gateway Aspect of Vehicle Crimes

Dallas, TX – How many additional crimes can be tied to stolen and burglarized vehicles? The answer: almost all crimes can have a connection. Stolen vehicles can be used as transportation for perpetrators to and from other criminal activities. Stolen vehicles can be used to transport criminal contraband, such as weapons, drugs and illegal individuals. Burglarized property from vehicles can be used to perpetrate identity theft and home invasions. Stolen vehicles and burglarized property can be sold to fund criminal activities ranging from drug use to acts of terrorism. And with a vehicle stolen in Texas every seven minutes and a vehicle burglarized every two minutes, criminals have plenty of opportunities to make such unlawful connections.

Historically, July is the month when the most vehicle thefts and burglaries occur in Texas. 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 2011 "Watch Your Car Month," which is being recognized statewide in July.

During "Watch Your Car Month", hundreds of vehicle crime task force representatives funded by ABTPA will be working in their communities reminding Texas drivers that leaving vehicle doors unlocked, keys inside, and valuable property in sight provides an open invitation to thieves and burglars who are constantly on the prowl for opportunities to steal. Law enforcement officers and support personnel will be spreading the message by distributing vehicle crimes prevention literature and issuing mock citations to drivers who leave keys and belongings in their vehicles. In addition, task force staff will increase their presence at locations where vehicle crime is experienced most often, including convenience stores, gas stations, day care centers, retail shopping centers, entertainment complexes, fitness centers, and large businesses.

In 2010, reported vehicle thefts in Texas totaled 68,220. In approximately half of those cases, vehicles were unlocked, and in over one-third of the 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. And last year, 261,166 vehicles were burglarized in Texas. 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%). This proves no area is safe from vehicle crime activity.

"We cannot stress enough that drivers must take an active role in preventing auto theft and burglary," said Michelle Lanham, program manager for ABTPA's Reduce Auto Theft in Texas (RATT) task force. "By leaving vehicles unlocked and unattended with keys in the ignition and property in full view, drivers might as well be giving thieves open invitations to steal their property. Individuals who step away from their running vehicles for only a minute to pay for gas, buy a soda, drop off a child at day care, or engage in other perceived "quick" activities are providing the 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 suggest that drivers leave their vehicles looking as they did the day they rolled off the factory floor -- nothing more in the vehicle than the parts it is made with."

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 570 grant programs that have contributed to a 58 percent reduction in the vehicle theft total and a 70 percent reduction in the theft rate. For more information on ABTPA, to reach one of ABTPA's 28 fiscal year 2011 grant program task forces, or to obtain prevention tips, call 800-CAR-WATCH or go to You can also fan ABTPA on Facebook or follow us on Twitter.