TEXAS (FOX 44) — Auto theft is a big money crime in Texas. According to the state Department of Motor Vehicles, “65,000 cars and trucks are stolen and almost 200,000 are burglarized each year.”
But not all vehicles are as susceptible to break-ins and theft across the state. Several factors raise the risk of your vehicle becoming a target. Here are some of the key considerations:
It may seem obvious, but a vehicle parked safely in your garage is less likely to be targeted than one on the street. Cars parked outside of homes are common targets for car thieves, according to law enforcement.
“Auto thefts happen in mostly residential neighborhoods in the early morning hours, when most persons are asleep,” Temple Police Department spokesperson Nohely Mackowiak said.
The problem is made much worse if your car is left unlocked.
“Suspects are looking for easy targets and unlocked vehicles to search for the targeted items,” said Mackowiak. “They normally wear hooded shirts or jackets, gloves, and masks, making identification very difficult.”
State Farm Insurance Public Affairs Specialist Gina Wilken said it’s common for many vehicles in one community to get hit all at the same time, and sometimes neighbors can help each other provide information to investigators.
“It’s a good idea to ask neighbors if their cameras recorded the act or any suspicious activity you can provide to police,” said Wilken.
She said the best response is to work with police, stay calm and contact your insurance company for next steps.
Mackowiak said theft from vehicles in her community is down from a year ago, but that drivers should still be cautious and look around before exiting vehicles. Many criminals have a wish list when they go out in search of a car to empty out.
“Vehicles are being left unlocked with targeted items inside – such as firearms, laptops, tablets, purses, wallets containing ID information, and credit/debit cards, keys, or key fobs to vehicles,” said Mackowiak.
The Texas Department of Motor Vehicles says to always lock your vehicle and take your keys. You should never leave your car running and unattended. It always helps to park in a well-lit area. Take your valuables with you when you are not in your vehicle, and keep them out of sight.
You can also give parking attendants just your ignition key. Keep your trunk and glove box locked at all times. If possible, get separate keys for the ignition and the trunk and glove box.
When it comes to stealing the entire vehicle, some of the most popular vehicles are also the most commonly stolen. According to 2020 data from the National Insurance Crime Bureau, an industry group that works with insurance companies, Honda and Toyota sedans are frequently the top targets in coastal states, but in Texas, pick-ups are prized.
The agency listed full-sized pick-ups from Chevy, Ford, GMC, and Dodge as the most stolen vehicles, followed by the Chevy Tahoe, Honda Accord, and Nissan Altima.
Anti-theft devices also help deter thieves, meaning some older models – that don’t come with newer standard security features – may also stand out to criminals. Many insurance companies now offer a discount for certain anti-theft devices.
So what should you do if your car is stolen?
According to the AAA website, a police report should be filed and the department should be given the location of the theft, a description of the vehicle, license plate and vehicle identification number (VIN).
The police will likely add your vehicle information to national theft databases. This will make it hard for the person who stole the vehicle to sell or re-title the vehicle. The police should also know if your vehicle has a GPS tracking device – this could help them find and recover the stolen vehicle. After filing a police report, then an auto theft claim should be filed as soon as possible.
If your vehicle is recovered but was damaged while stolen, the repairs would most likely be considered comprehensive coverage – then a comprehensive deductible would apply.
Auto insurance typically will not cover any personal belongings stolen from your vehicle – such as a cell phone, laptop, jewelry or cash. However, a renters, condominium or homeowners policy might cover personal belongings stolen from your vehicle.
If your vehicle is recovered and has been damaged, a claims service representative can walk you through how your comprehensive coverage will apply. If your car isn’t recovered, it will be considered a total loss. A claims service representative can also assist you through the total loss process to provide a fair market value for your vehicle, according to the terms of your policy. If you have a loan on your vehicle, your claims service representative will work with your lineholder to help get the payoff and documents necessary to settle the claim.