APD uses new technique to prevent auto theft

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by NOELLE NEWTON / KVUE News

kvue.com

Posted on May 13, 2010 at 5:31 PM

Updated Thursday, May 13 at 6:33 PM

Police are getting as sly as thieves to prevent auto theft. The focus is on large trucks which have been disappearing by the dozens lately.

Just like you scout out a parking spot, thieves are cruising around looking for the perfect opportunity to get what they want.  Police say extended cab, 4x4 trucks are disappearing on average 15 to 30 times a month in Austin.

It happened to Vanessa Neves while she and her husband were in a movie theater.

"When we went in I said we have an F-250 and it's gone and they said those are always the vehicles leaving this parking lot,” said Neves.

Police say the thieves go straight to Mexico. They strip out the back seat and use the space to smuggle illegal immigrants across the border.

"They look for the four wheel drive with ranch hand or heavy-duty bumpers in the back. They use these so they can go off road maybe to evade officers in pursuits,” said Officer Jimmy Diaz.

In Central East Austin, officers are being just as sneaky as the crooks to curb the crime.

They're patrolling hot spots with their red and blue lights flashing as if responding to an urgent call. The goal is to scare thieves away.

"If the perpetrator is in the act of committing that crime, he or his partner may look up and see the officer with his police lights on and they'll automatically think someone called in on them or whatever and they're coming after me,” said Diaz.

Officers do the patrols during the peak time for the thefts which is 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Lately, thieves have been the most active on Tuesdays and Saturdays.

Truck owners can take action too. Police recommend installing an alarm and kill switch.

"It kills the signal between the starter and the ignition so that even if they had the key to the car they wouldn't be able to start the car. They would put the key in the ignition and try to turn it and it would not start,” said Ralph Doelling, Mother’s Window Tint store manager.

The kill switch costs around $80.

The recovery rate for the trucks is high. Investigators say 70 to 80 percent are found dumped in South Texas towns. But, the interior is heavily damaged.

If officers are patrolling along streets, they will cut off their lights when approaching traffic signals so as not to disrupt traffic flow.

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