By Sherry Koonce
The News staff writer
Full size Chevrolet trucks tops the list of most stolen vehicles in Southeast Texas with Ford trucks coming in right behind.
Tuesday the Southeast Texas Auto Theft Task Force released its annual list of Top 10 stolen vehicles while noting that auto thefts in Southeast Texas are down this year by 13 percent.
“It’s like the commercial says, ‘Southeast Texans love their trucks,’” Roger Ross, Task Force investigator, said.
Statistics compiled by the local auto task force reflect a 17 percent decrease in Jefferson County with 622 vehicle thefts in 2009. Orange County saw a decline of 15 percent with 230 thefts. Hardin and Jefferson counties experienced a slight increase with 24 more auto thefts than were reported for the year 2008.
Increased public awareness combined with the work of law enforcement officer is the reason for the decrease, Ross said.
This year’s top two spots for most desirable stolen vehicles flip-flopped from the year before when Ford full size trucks came in at No. 1 and Chevrolet full-size trucks were second.
The No. 3 spot went to the Chevrolet Impala and the national popular Ford Taurus, which hung onto the fourth place for the second consecutive year. The Chevrolet Tahoe rounded out the top five. Filling in the remaining spots was the Ford Mustang, GMC full size truck, Chevrolet Malibu, Buick LeSabre and the Dodge Durango.
Ross said 60 percent of the vehicles stolen locally are done so by juveniles.
Most often thieves will steal a vehicle for parts, then find a place to sell them.
Though technology has made it more difficult for thieves to steal vehicles, owners leaving keys in their cars continues to make it easy.
“We have beat that message as hard as we can, lock your car, take your keys, hide your belongings,” Ross said.
Still, people will leave their keys in the car for varying reasons, he said.
Lately, it’s been the weather. Owners are going out and starting their vehicles, then leave the car running while they go back inside while the vehicle warms up, Ross said.
Most are taken from areas where there is a high concentration of vehicles, such as malls, or convenience stores where people leave their cars running while they run inside for a couple of items.
To keep one’s car safe and off the list, owners should always lock the vehicle and take the keys with them; hide belongings, and park in well-lit areas.
Owners can also register with the Texas Help End Auto Theft (H.E.A.T.) Program. Those who register and sign a permission slip will receive two decals to display on the vehicle. Presence of the decal gives law enforcement officers permission to pull the vehicle over between the hours of 1 a.m. and 5 a.m.
The local task force is comprised of officers from the Beaumont and Port Arthur police departments, and the Jefferson County and Hardin County Sheriff’s offices.
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