With just two good whacks with a tire tool, the window to this vehicle is broken and valuables are taken. It only takes a few seconds for this to happen. In fact, Officer Jay Roberts with the Houston Police Department's Special Operations Division, says burglary of a motor vehicle is the number one crime in the city.
"Parking lots, shopping malls, fitness areas, parks, but in that, it's one hundred percent preventable, if the citizens of Houston will help us with it."
Roberts showed me and other members of the press...just how easy it is for this crime to take place. He says it doesn't matter where you are.
"Downtown Houston last Sunday night there was ten at one hotel, Allen Parkway and Dunlavy, there was five at apartment complexes, five at each location on last Friday. Starbucks at Uptown Plaza, man went in to get a cup of coffee, came back out, and his car was broken, two laptops was taken. It's just running rampant all over the city, because it's so hard to detect and catch them while they're the act of doing it."
Hernandez: "Do they usually work in twos?"
Roberts: "Usually, there's two people in the vehicle. One is in the passenger's like we demonstrated. He gets out and spots the car, gets out and smashes it, and then they have the quick getaway to get out of the area. But, we just ask, if you don't have bring your valuables, don't bring them at all and that'll prevent this from happening."
And if unsecured vehicles are stolen, Roberts says thieves have easy access to everything left inside...garage door openers, house keys and personal information, which can all lead to additional and more serious crimes.
"It's just an awful feeling;Î¾you feel so violated."
Julie Coan remembers the helpless feeling she had when it happened to her.
"I get a call from my neighbor one morning, she was walking her dog and she says: 'your car 's been broken into.' Sure enough, I went out there, and my window was smashed, and my stereo was gone. So, it's just a scary feeling cause you don't know what to do..call the police. Do you confront them? Do you just let them go? What do you do? So, we went back in the house and called the police."
Officer Jay Roberts says you DO NOT confront the burglar.
"Don't try to stop them yourself, because these people can be very dangerous. If you see activity, try to get a license plate number, and call it into the police department. That helps us a lot. If you can get the license plate number of the vehicle that they're in, and a good description of the person at the scene, it helps us to apprehend these people."
He urges motorists to remove this crime of opportunity. Take valuables out, including identification, credit cards or money, move your vehicle after putting purchases in a secure space, and last but not least, keep your vehicle locked.
Pat Hernandez, KUHF...Houston Public Radio News.