Police hope surveillance video helps catch slick vehicle thief

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HOUSTON – A piece of surveillance video from a neighborhood off Elmen near Welch may hold the key to a rash of car thefts. The video shows what police suspect is a man using a laptop to help steal a 2010 Jeep Wrangler on April 20.

“We'd like to find out who he is,” said Jim Woods, an officer with HPD’s auto theft division. “This is the only video that we have. Now we’ve got five other Jeep Wranglers, late model, that have been stolen and have not been recovered.”

The video shows a man getting in to the Jeep and immediately powering on a laptop. Woods suspects the thief is using his laptop to help steal the car.

“He has somehow figured out a way to use a computer system to somehow help him reprogram another key,” said Woods. “He’s convinced the computer in the car to marry itself to the key he’s shown up with.”

Before the man with the laptop shows up, police said another man in a hoodie popped the hood of the Jeep and disables the horn. That man then walks away. Ten minutes later the man with laptop shows up and climbs into the Jeep. The video shows the Jeep's lights are flashing, which means the alarm went off, but the horn is silent.

“One goes up and disables (the horn), they sit there for about 10 minutes to make sure nobody comes out,” said Woods. “If he’s figured out a work-around on this deal and he’s got a program for it, he can create a lot of havoc.”

Woods said it's not just Jeep Wranglers being stolen and not recovered.

“We’ve got several Jeep Grand Cherokee, late model, that are stolen. We have several Dodge pickup trucks, late model, that have been stolen and have not been recovered,” Woods said.

Police urge car owners to install more than just alarms. They suggest trying to make sure your vehicle is parked inside a garage. If that is not possible, then police suggest installing some type of tracking device on their vehicle to help police, or a “kill switch” that can disable a vehicle after it has been stolen.

If you know anything about these crimes you are asked to call HPD’s Auto Theft division at (713) 308-3500 or Crimestoppers at (713) 222-TIPS.