Despite rise in auto thefts, police recover more stolen cars

Natalie Sullivan

Although the number of auto thefts in Austin has risen by 5 percent over the past year, police have recovered more cars from the thefts, according to APD Sgt. Robert Smith. 

Austin Police Department statistics show 1,611 cars have been stolen so far this year, compared to 1,498 in the first eight months of 2013. Despite the increase in thefts, Smith said APD has recovered more cars than last year. APD recovered 970 of 1,498 cars stolen in 2013, and while they recovered 1,028 of 1,611 in 2014, the rate of recovery is currently lower.

According to Smith, vehicles are more likely to be stolen or broken into over the summer.

“July and August are when we typically see a spike in the number of cars being stolen,” Smith said. “Those are the hottest months, so more people are traveling and leaving their cars unattended.” 

Smith said APD has asked for more detectives on the auto theft unit to cope with the increasing number of thefts and burglaries. According to APD’s budget plan, the unit currently has 10 detectives that handle an average of 340 auto theft cases per month.  

“City Council has decided to give us two more detectives, but we could use more,” Smith said. 

Smith attributes the increased recovery to policing efforts and an awareness campaign called “Watch Your Car,” which launched in July to raise awareness of auto thefts and burglaries. 

Vehicles are rarely stolen on campus, according to UTPD crime statistics. UTPD spokeswoman Cindy Posey said UT police did not receive any stolen vehicle reports in August. Last year, only eight auto thefts were reported to UTPD. 

Vehicle theft and break-ins are more frequent just outside of campus, with seven auto thefts reported in West Campus last month, according to APD’s incident database. Smith said leaving keys inside the vehicle is one of the most common mistakes people make before their cars are stolen
or burglarized.

“People leave their keys in their cars … and they’ll leave their iPods or electronics out in plain view, so then their cars get burglarized or stolen,” Smith said. “It’s a crime of opportunity.”