HOUSTON – Taco and catering trucks seem to be everywhere in Houston these days.
They’ve become a popular alternative to takeout, but they’ve also become a popular target for takedowns.
Houston Police Department robbery detectives are now tracking two armed robbers who, they said, hit four trucks in southeast Houston during one week this month.
What they're doing
During a taco truck robbery in the 6800 block of Griggs Road, the robbers came armed with a pistol and a shotgun, according to police.
Police said they fired a round into the truck just to get the owner’s attention before robbing him.
"If something sets one of these suspects off during one of these robberies, seeing that they’ve discharged it (the gun) before, it’s not going to stop them from discharging it again, and this time, we just hope it’s not going to be discharged toward an actual victim," Detective Jeff Brieden said.
Southeast Houston targeted
Police said the two men robbed at least four taco trucks since June 6. Here is a map of the locations they've targeted.
Police said the robbers commit the crimes by pointing a gun at employees and demanding money from the cash registers.
Police said one of the men used a knife during the robberies.
The men left the robbery scenes in a gray Kia sedan and a dark blue four-door sedan, according to witnesses.
Here are the robberies police said the duo is responsible for:
Why target taco trucks?
The taco trucks are attractive targets because the crooks know their operators often carry cash and are often out late at night.
That may have been what led robbers to target Enrique Ayala, whose taco stand is a beloved icon of the Winchester neighborhood in Southwest Houston.
Ayala was known to often carry hundreds of dollars in cash. He was gunned down in a late-night robbery June 6.
Owners know the dangers
It was a tragedy, but for others, it's not a surprise.
Dennys Rivera has operated a food truck for four years. He said he was robbed a year ago.
"Already happened to me. I saw the guy get in the truck to get my money, but I got out of the other door," Rivera said.
Rivera said he believes just about every other operator he knows has had the same experience.
"I know that most of these guys have been robbed before, at least once," Rivera said.
Description of robbers
Police described the robbers as being Hispanic, about 15 to 20 years old, about 5 feet, 6 inches to 5 feet, 9 inches tall, weighing about 135 to 155 pounds, with black hair, brown eyes and medium complexions.
Crime Stoppers is offering a reward of up to $5,000 for information leading to the charging and/or arrest of the suspects in this case. Information may be reported by calling 713-222-TIPS (8477) or by submitting it online.