HOUSTON – When it comes to car break-ins, drivers are getting smarter and not leaving purses and laptops in their cars. But as car owners are getting smarter, the thieves are getting more savvy too.
Shane McWilliams and Morgan Bradshaw are a young couple, on a date one Monday night at a Trampoline Park in Cypress.
While they were inside jumping around, crooks were outside in the parking lot spoiling all their fun.
"They broke in my truck," said McWilliams. He added, "They smashed my window in, got my pistol."
New Car Burglary Trend
Turns out McWilliams was the victim of a new car burglary trend.
"Purses and laptops used to be the big target," said Sgt. Tracy Hicks with the Houston Police Department Auto Theft Division. He added, "But they have switched to guns now."
Hicks has been with HPD for over 27 years.
Over the summer, Hicks and his team responded to countless car burglaries at new luxury apartment parking garages.
But, for the most part, the thieves walked away empty-handed.
"Word has gotten out that people are not leaving stuff in their cars because everyone has been a victim," said Hicks.
So he said the crooks had to change their M.O.
Location, Location, Location
That meant choosing a new location, and a new stash of loot.
And in Texas, people like their guns.
"There's still a lot of places that you can't carry your gun like bars, courthouse, school or places you wouldn't want to like the gym and people just stuff it under their seat and forget," said Hicks.
McWilliams truck got tagged outside a trampoline park.
"My pistol was underneath my seat, there's a center console inside," said McWilliams.
Crooks are bypassing the big box store parking lots, and instead hitting strip center parking lots. Particularly places where people are going to be away from their car for at least one hour.
Advertising gun or hunting interests
Police say, McWilliams' truck was an easy mark.
"If you're advertising on the back of your truck that you're a pro-gun person or your favorite hunting logo, criminals see that too and they know all they have to do is look for an NRA sticker and that's the one they’re going to hit," said Hicks.
"Just the way my truck looks... It looks like I go out, maybe just came back from a camping trip because I had the coolers in the back," said McWilliams.
Police Can't Keep Up
Police are having trouble keeping up with this new crime trend.
"They have switched from the big box stores where they have been caught before to these smaller places and there are thousands of places like nails salons and yoga places that can't be covered," said Hicks.
What You Can Do
Police recommend if you must store your gun in your car, invest in a small safe. Never just hide it under your seat, in the glove box or in the center console. Keep of record of your gun's serial number. And report a lost or stolen gun to the police.