How car thieves are changing their tactics during the pandemic

HOUSTON – Before the pandemic, a motor vehicle theft occurred about every seven minutes in Texas. Lt. Tommy Hansen, the chair of the Motor Vehicle Crime Prevention Authority, said it is now closer to every six minutes.

“We’re just seeing a massive increase in the numbers of thefts,” Hansen said. “We’ve got anywhere from 10% to almost 40% increases in certain areas of the state of Texas.”

Lt. Hal Barrow, a leader with Galveston County auto thefts division says 2020 has produced a massive jump in cases. There 576 cases from January to October.

“We’ve seen a 39.9% increase,” Barrow said.

Changing criminals

Sgt. Tracy Hicks is with the Houston Police Department’s auto-theft division.

“The criminals have changed,” she said.

Shifting from empty shopping centers and restaurant parking lots to apartment complex garages and subdivisions.

“They got to steal them where they are, and since a lot of stuff is still on semi-lockdown they have shifted to the neighborhoods,” said Hicks.

Most popular vehicle for thieves

Nearly every member of law enforcement KPRC 2 Investigates spoke to highlighted Chevrolet pickups as the most popular vehicles in the area for criminals.

“If you total up the top ten vehicles, two through ten, they do not equal the amount of chevy trucks that are being stolen,” said Hicks.

The reason? Law enforcement said thieves can work around the anti-theft systems.

Protecting your ride

What can you do to protect your ride? Hicks said there is an old-school solution.

“We’ve got to go back to ‘The Club.’” Hicks said. “We’ve got to go back to the stream wheel lock that locks your gas pedal. We got to get aftermarket kill switches. Very inexpensive piece of mind.”

Pictures before thefts

Believe it or not, criminals are targeting vehicles for theft by snapping pictures and putting them up for sale online, even before the vehicles are actually stolen.

For more on that part of the story, along with an important message about protecting your car key, click on the KPRC 2 Investigates web extra below.

Watch this KPRC 2 Investigates video extra.

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