Vehicle burglaries down; crime prevention up (video)

Bianca Montes By Bianca Montes

July 16, 2013 at 2:16 a.m.
Updated July 17, 2013 at 2:17 a.m.

It was a Friday afternoon, about 4:30 p.m., when Kristen Brown parked her car outside a day care center.

She said hello to a fellow mother in the parking lot and went inside to pick up her stepson.

In less than four minutes, a burglar broke into her car and stole her purse, which contained her cellphone, digital camera, Social Security card and wallet.

Thirty minutes later, $500 was withdrawn from her bank account.

Brown is not the only one this has happened to, but fortunately, the number of vehicle burglaries appears to be on the decline, according to the 2012 Victoria Police Department annual crime report.

The report shows a more than 50 percent decline in burglary of motor vehicle offenses between 2009 and 2012, a trend the rest of the state is reporting as well.

According to data compiled by the Auto Burglary and Theft Prevention Authority, Texas has seen a 14.8 percent decrease in auto burglaries between 2008 and 2011.

"I never would have thought someone would do that," Brown said. "This is Victoria - it's such a small town."

According to the 2010 census, 86,793 people live in Victoria County.

While Victoria has seen a large decrease in motor vehicle burglaries, Detective Jason Martin said people need to be educated and aware of a large problem.

Most burglaries, he said, come from people not locking their cars, not rolling up their windows and leaving personal belongings in plain sight.

Brown said her vehicle was not locked at the time of the burglary.

Data produced by the police department shows more than 100 vehicles were burglarized in May and June.

Those numbers are expected to increase within this summer, said Martin.

Martin is one of two detectives who work for the police department's Motor Vehicle Theft Unit.

The Automobile Burglary and Theft Prevention Authority funds the unit through a state grant in an effort to curb motor vehicle theft and burglary.

The grant pays 100 percent of two officers' $51,522 yearly salaries and 20 percent of a police clerk's salary.

Part of the grant's purpose is to educate citizens about auto crimes, Martin said.

VIN etching

Officer John Turner with the Crime Prevention Unit said there are two types of thieves: those who steal a car to take it for a joy ride and those who steal a car to sell it for parts.

VIN etching, a free service provided by the Victoria Police Department, lessens the chances of a vehicle being stolen for parts, Turner said.

Officers use a chemical process to etch the vehicle identification number onto a car's windows. If the car is stolen, officers can track it through the etchings.

In order to have your vehicle etched, you'll need a current driver's license and proof of insurance.

Periodically, the police department holds events in which the public can have the etching done. It can also be done by appointment by calling 361-485-3808.

H.E.A.T program

More vehicles are stolen between 1 and 5 a.m. than any other time, and that's where Help End Auto Theft, or H.E.A.T., comes in.

H.E.A.T. is a statewide vehicle registration program through the Texas Department of Public Safety that, once registered, allows officers to pull over your car without cause during those hours.

Enrollment is available online or by calling 888-447-5933.

Report card

To educate Victoria motorists how to think like a thief, the Victoria Police Department hands out report cards to parked motorists.

Officers visit frequented parking lots and other high-crime areas and inspect cars looking for things a burglar might be interested in, such as items in plain view, unrolled windows and keys in the car.

The motorist either passes or fails and is given an orange slip letting them know why.



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