More Cars Stolen During Recession

Houston Police Chief Harold Hurtt says the number of car thefts in the city have gone up in conjunction with the economy going down. Bill Stamps has a look at what the thieves are after.
(sound of a car alarm)

That's a sound most people have grown accustomed to hearing in a public parking lot. Police say we hear it so often that many people just assume the alarm is going off on accident.

"But people do notice and the crooks notice and more importantly most of these alarms disable the ignition once they've been activated, so now if the crook does break your steering column or ignition lock he's unable to drive it off."


That's Sergeant JM Smith who work in HPD's Auto Theft Division. Their statistics for the month of June show the majority of vehicles stolen were Ford or Chevy trucks. Fords were ripped off 172 times, while Chevy's were taken 135 times. The most popular are Ford F250's and 350's that don't have a chip key.

Ford F150 white truck"Without that chip key the vehicle won't start. And it doesn't matter if you break the steering column or break the ignition lock it's not going to start. Well, they only do that to certain lines and in the case of Fords, for example F250s and F350's do not require a chip key, but F150's do."

Houston's George Wilson owns a Dodge truck. Ninety-four of them were stolen in June. That's 4th on Houston's most stolen list.

"I haven't had any problems with my vehicle. I guess the neighborhood I live in, sometimes I leave my garage door up and my keys in the car, but haven't had that problem yet. I guess it depends on where you're located."

Police say there's no secret to preventing car theft. Just lock your doors, keep valuables out of sight and set your alarm if you have one. Police Chief Harold Hurtt says there is one particular area that's been hit hardest this year.

"The highest concentration of incidents occurred in the 290 corridor between Bingle and West Little York, with 332 burglary of motor vehicles."

Hurtt says between January and June the number of car thefts citywide increased 36 percent over the same time period last year. Hurtt believes the downward economy has played a roll in those numbers.

Ironically a more expensive car could get a thief more money, but it can also get them more years in jail since the penalty is based on the value of the property. In the eyes of the law, stealing an expensive Mercedes or F250 is not the same as stealing a Saturn.

Bill Stamps, KUHF-Houston Public Radio News.