Auto Thefts Down In Houston

Auto theft in Houston was down more than five percent last year compared to 2004. It's the biggest drop in recent memory and the latest sign, officials say, taht aggressive new law enforcement techniques are working. Here's more for Houston Public Radio's Jack Williams.

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There were more than a thousand fewer auto thefts in Houston last year than the year before, a reduction that police officials credit to more undercover investigations, sting operations and public education. Many of the crooks were caught on tape by cameras planted in bait vehicles across the city, a program that officials say has been very effective. Assistant Chief for Criminal Investigations Vicki King says cops have been targeting the major players in auto theft.

"Instead of taking these paper chases and chasing individual crooks or going after the joyriders, the key was here to put our resources where they would be most effective and that is dismantling these criminal organizations."

Mayor Bill White says the latest number are encouraging and a sign that aggressive law enforcement is working in the war against auto thieves.

"You don't see drops like this just because the criminals decide it's a bad idea. You do it because you are having aggressive enforcement that gets to the heart of the problem. It just goes to show that law enforcement does work."

The most popular vehicles stolen in December included Chevy, Ford and Dodge Trucks and Honda cars. The most common theft areas were apartment complexes, movie theaters, malls and health clubs. Despite the improved numbers, there were still more than 20,000 vehicles stolen in Houston in 2005.

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