Austin Police Department works to combat auto theft

Warmer weather will bring more car thefts to Austin, and although thefts and break-ins are rare at the University, both UTPD and the Austin Police Department are preparing for the predicted rise.

According to a list released by the Austin Police Department, the Honda Accord was the most commonly stolen car in Austin in 2012. Various types of American-made cars and three Toyota models also appeared among the top 10 stolen car models.

Diana Amaro, APD neighborhood liaison, said the first five months of the year usually correspond to an increase in truck thefts. According to Amaro, the department works to prevent break-ins and thefts by educating the community on ways to take precautions. 

One program offered by the APD encourages drivers to have their car windows engraved for free with a Vehicle Identification Number to make it identifiable and to deter thieves.

“If you go to a car dealership, you will pay $200 to $400 for this service. The Austin Police Department provides it free from a grant that [it] receives from Texas Auto Burglary and Theft Prevention,” Amaro said.

If a thief were to steal an engraved car, they would have to break and replace each window to remove the Vehicle Identification Number, Amaro said. 

The Help End Auto Theft program is another initiative by the APD to reduce car theft. By enrolling in the program, drivers give law enforcement permission to stop their cars and verify ownership between one and five in the morning, which is when most vehicles are stolen, Amaro said. Vehicles enrolled in the program are identified by a car decal," Amaro said.

The University uses education to help prevent auto theft Layne Brewster, University of Texas Police Department officer, said.

“Basically, we have programs that educate students,” Brewster said. “We have the campus watch that we put out. I believe that we have little brochures that officers in the past have gone around and just left out, especially during the holidays,” 

At the University, car break-ins, which are more common than thefts, are usually seasonal, Brewster said. They tend to spike around Christmas and spring break according to Brewster.

Between Dec. 1, 2012 and Feb. 5, 2013, the University of Texas Police Department had five reports of car break-ins and thefts, Brewster said.

Students and campus staff also take measures to prevent car theft.

“I park in a parking garage,” Allison Cope, an administrative assistant for the Division of Housing and Food Service, said. “I feel like it’s probably safer there. If I park on the street, I try to park near buildings or high-traffic areas.” 

Published on February 6, 2013 as "Local police predict increase in car thefts".