Some parts of Texas used to have the worst car-theft problems in the country. Officer James Woods with Houston Police Auto Theft remembers how bad it was.
“Back in 1990 and ’91, both of those years Houston experienced auto theft rates an auto theft rate of over 40,000 vehicles stolen every year.”
That lead to state lawmakers creating the Automobile Theft Prevention Authority, an assessment program funded by every insured motorist in the Lone Star State.
“What it allowed the state to do was then turn around and pass out grants to local area law enforcements that were experiencing the most problem. And Houston received a grant, and the first year the program was in effect, we went from 40,000 to 30,000 vehicles stolen. We dropped another 4,000 down to 26,000. So you have a 14,000 vehicle decrease in just a two year period.”
The grant money allowed HPD Auto Theft to target criminals who were stealing vehicles every day. Woods says that had a greater effect than catching the occasional auto theft suspect. Sandra Helin, president of the Southwest Insurance Information Institute, says auto theft has fallen as much as 75% in some Texas counties.
“We believe that the reason auto thefts are down is because of very strong, agressive consumer awareness campaigns. New technologies, a lot of people have their GPS systems in their cars, and they use key fobs, electronic key fobs to get into cars, and (auto) manufacturers are making it a lot more difficult to break into a vehicle.”
It’s no wonder that none of the ten most frequently stolen vehicles in Texas was made later than 2006. Once again, Officer James Woods with HPD Auto Theft:
“And of course, the older the car gets, a lot of times the car is worth a lot more parts-wise, than it is whole. So, you’ll have someone then turn around and steal the car, and then start stripping the cars and then selling the parts, whether it be through various websites; Craig’slist or eBay or any other social media site that you could turn around and and advertise.”
In the meantime, motorists are remembering to hide valuables, lock the car and take the key.
“The auto theft rate has gone down due to technology, maybe due to the funding of the grants across the state of Texas, or from the fact that we’ve just done a better job education-wise.”
He adds, there is no reason for being an auto theft victim if you take the proper steps to keep from becoming one.