We lock our doors and set our alarms to try to safeguard our homes and valuables. Yet determined thieves still find their way inside.
Local 2 Investigates analyzed Houston Police Department records and found there were an average of approximately 260 burglaries and thefts reported everyday last year. This number also brings to light another question: if you are a victim of burglary or theft, what are the chances police will track down your stolen items?
"Everything that was worth anything was gone," said Bianca Williams, whose apartment was burglarized.
Local 2 spoke with several victims of burglary and theft; all said the crimes left them feeling violated.
"The fact that somebody has been in my house, uninvited, is scary and frustrating," said another victim who asked not to be identified.
"You lose sleep, every night you think somebody's going to be out there," said David Rabe, who said thieves twice stole the tires off of his truck.
"It got to the point I didn't wanted to wash my truck because I felt like the wheels were like gleaming beacons in the night, 'come steal me, come steal me,'" Rabe said.
When the bandits came back to Rabe's house for a third try he said he grabbed his shotgun.
"About the middle of the yard I fired my first shot," Rabe said. "Put two more rounds in the windshield."
Rabe said the thieves then sped off and got away.
"After it happened so many times you know, enough is enough," Rabe said.
"Hundreds, if not thousands, of cases are not worked because we simply don't have the manpower to work them," said Ray Hunt, president of the Houston Police Officers Union. "It is just case overload for every one of our investigators."
HPD records show between January and October of last year the department's Burglary and Theft division "received" more than 100,000 cases. Of those cases, HPD records show only about 11 percent were solved.
"Did you actually speak to any detective on your cases?" asked Local 2 Investigator Robert Arnold. "I've never spoken to a detective on my case," the woman answered. She told Local 2 her home was burglarized twice.
Her sense of frustration is shared by many Local 2 spoke with and said they never spoke to a detective about their case. HPD records show out of the cases received by the burglary and theft division between January and October of last year, only approximately 8 percent were assigned to a detective.
"It was suggested I check pawn shops," the woman said.
"HPD told you, yourself, to go out and start checking pawn shops for your stuff?" Arnold asked.
"Yes," she answered.
There are only 50 investigators in HPD's burglary and theft division and HPD Lieutenant Mike Osina said each investigator gets one to two new cases every day, even when they're on vacation or out sick.
"It's a numbers game that seems to favor the criminals," Arnold said.
"Absolutely," Osina said. "Our investigators hold anywhere from 10 to 20 cases at one time, working these cases simultaneously. So they're constantly, juggling, juggling, juggling these cases."
Osina said many times cases have to be prioritized based on whether there are clues as to who committed the crime.
"Fingerprints, physical evidence, anything like that," said Osina.
HPD records show even if there is a clue as to who committed the crime there may not be a detective available to work the case all the way to an arrest. HPD records how between January and October of last year about 16 percent of cases where "suspended" even though there were clues as to who committed the crime.
"Some of these cases can take a month to solve, some may take a year," said Osina.
"If your car is burglarized in Small Town, Texas where they have one burglary a day it's probably going to be solved. If it's burglarized in Houston, Texas it's probably not going to get solved," said Hunt. "I hate to say that but that's the reality of a department that's 1,500 officers or so short."
Police also said many times victims can work against detectives solving a crime and recovering stolen goods. Osina said many people fail to write down the serial numbers of valuable items. Many stolen items are taken to pawn shops for quick cash and police do have a database that allows them to track when and where items are sold. However, Osina said if a person does not have a record of an item's serial number then investigators cannot prove that item belongs to that person.
"It looks like your TV, but how many other TVs that look like your TV were pawned on this day," said Osina. "If they would just write down serial numbers to their valuables it would help us out immensely, it would them out immensely."
Osina also suggests, in addition to keeping a record of serial numbers, videotaping or photographing the valuable items in your home.
When it comes to valuable pieces of jewelry police also suggest taking pictures and getting a documented appraisal of the item.