The summer months are historically one of the riskiest times of the year for vehicle burglary and theft in Texas.
This time brings busy schedules, vacations, and more time on the road that can lead some drivers to let their guard down when it comes to locking doors and hiding personal items.
We teamed up with Crime Stoppers of Houston and Clear Channel Outdoor to promote a simple vehicle crime prevention philosophy: “If you like it, LOCK IT!”
Vehicle Theft Prevention Tips
The awareness campaign includes 11 digital billboards across the region that encourage residents to practice three basic safety tips:
- Hide it
- Lock it
- Take it
- Always lock your vehicle and take your keys.
- Never leave your car unattended while it is running.
- Park in a well-lit area.
- Take valuables with you when you are not in your vehicle or keep them out of sight.
- Give parking attendants the ignition key only.
- Install an anti-theft device.
According to the Texas Department of Public Safety, thieves stole 84,170 vehicles in Texas during 2020. In some jurisdictions, more than half of the vehicles stolen had unlocked doors and keys left inside. Since January, 2,529 stolen vehicles were reported to our agency.
Catalytic Converter Theft Prevention Tips
Catalytic converter thefts have soared nationally as the prices of the metals inside the part have risen. The anti-pollution device is attached to the belly of the vehicle.
In March, we busted a catalytic converter theft ring, seizing 32 stolen parts, more than $14,500, and arresting four people.
In our region and the rest of country, prices for rhodium, palladium, and platinum are climbing, and thieves see an easy way to make cash. Reported thefts of catalytic converters for our agency more than tripled last year, from 180 in 2019 to 744 in 2020. This year alone there have been nearly 1,300 reported catalytic converter thefts.
In what takes just minutes, thieves slide under your vehicle and saw off the device. To avoid detection, many change their vehicle’s license plate. They may lift the car using a car jack before cutting the part and driving off in their own vehicle. Most thieves use basic tools, such as a battery-powered saw.
Sgt. Persons, who oversees our Metal Theft Unit, says these thefts are becoming a crime of opportunity, happening at any time of the day at shopping center parking lots, near driveways in residential areas, or places where cars are parked in a row.
The thefts are disruptive. Motorists are met with a roaring noise when they turn on the ignition. The loud noise and the potential damage to the engine are why you can’t drive without the part.
For the theft victim, it’s costly due to time off work, finding and paying for alternate transportation, and then paying to get your vehicle fixed. Repair shops can charge up to $2,500 to replace the converters, and what you pay out of pocket depends on your insurance.
Drivers can take preventative steps to protect their car’s catalytic converter:
- Park your car in a garage or in a well-lit area.
- Park close to fences, walls, or curbs and alongside cars to make the catalytic converter less accessible.
- Mark the converter by stamping or engraving your VIN or license plate number.
- Install a catalytic theft prevention device, such as a lock or cover.
- Report potential thefts immediately and obtain as much information about the suspects as possible.
As we enjoy the summer months, let’s take preventative measures to remain safe and safeguard our property.