If you like it, lock it up

by Cristin Parker cristin@thecherokeean.com

State and local law enforcement officials are reminding motorists to remain vigilant in keeping their vehicles from being burgled through the heat of the summer.

Local police departments are reporting seeing an average number of reports of auto break-ins since summer started.

“Every time school’s out, property crimes increase,” Rusk Police Chief Joe Williams said. “We’ve had some reports, have made some arrests and continue working some cases of burglary of a vehicle. This year’s been pretty comparable to other years.”

New Summerfield Police Chief Reynold Humber said his city’s not seeing too much activity either.

“We’re not seeing a real bad case of car break-ins,” Humber said. “And that’s a good thing. The best policy is to not leave any valuables in the car, or if they do, lock them up in the trunk; don’t leave the keys in the vehicle; and lock the doors.”

The Texas Auto Burglary and Theft Prevention Authority concurs.

“It doesn’t matter what you drive, all vehicles are a potential target of theft,” the TABTPA states on the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles website. “In the state of Texas, more than 65,000 cars and trucks are stolen and an estimated 200,000 are burglarized each year. Many jurisdictions report keys lefts inside and unlocked doors are major factors in stolen and burglarized vehicles.”

Gov. Greg Abbott recently declared July Watch Your Car month. “Motorists and businesses in Texas have estimated nearly $1 billion in losses due to motor vehicle burglary and theft every year,” Abbott stated in his proclamation. “According to Texas law enforcement officials, motorists run the greatest risk of having their car stolen during the summer months.

“Unlocked vehicles, forgotten keys and exposed valuables contribute to a large percentages of these crimes. To combat motor vehicle-related crimes the Texas Legislature established the Texas Motor Crimes Prevention Authority, which has created the ‘If You Like It – Lock It’ campaign to raise awareness and reduce motor vehicle burglary and theft.

“At this time I encourage all Texans to take the necessary steps and precautions to reduce motor vehicle burglaries and thefts throughout the Lone Star state.”

Under Texas law, motorists are not permitted to leave a vehicle unattended without stopping the engine and removing the key from the ignition.

“We also want to remind folks to not leave their cars running, while unattended,” Humber said. “Even if it’s just to run in somewhere real quick. It doesn’t take thieves long to size up a situation and do their thing.”

The Texas Motor Crimes Prevention Authority also suggests these tips to keep thieves at bay:

• Always lock your vehicle and take your keys.

• Never leave your car running and unattended.

• Park in a well-lit area.

• Take valuables with you when you are not in your vehicle.

• Keep valuables out of sight.

• Give parking attendants the ignition key only. Keep your trunk and glove box locked at all times. If possible, get separate keys for the ignition and the trunk and glove box.

• Install an anti-theft device. Many insurance companies may give you a discount for certain anti-theft devices. Check with your agent for details.

According to the TxDMV’s website, the Texas Automobile Theft Prevention Authority (ATPA) was established by the 72nd Texas Legislature in 1991 and became the first statewide effort to reduce auto theft.

“The 80th Legislature amended the ATPA mission in House Bill 1887 to also emphasize reducing vehicle burglaries,” the website states. “The resulting agency, the Texas Auto Burglary and Theft Prevention Authority (ABTPA), is charged with assessing automobile burglary, theft, and economic theft (burglary or theft committed for financial gain) in Texas, analyzing the methods and providing financial support to combat the problems. In 2009, the ABTPA became part of the newly established Texas Department of Motor Vehicles.”