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Auto Burglars Shop Unattended Motor Vehicles This Holiday


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AUSTIN, Texas, Nov. 20, 2007 -- This holiday season, auto burglars will shop the easy way -- by stealing your gifts, purse, wallet, packages or other valuables you leave in plain sight inside your vehicle. Every 2 1/2 minutes, a vehicle is burglarized in Texas with its contents stolen. Obviously, these crimes escalate during this time of year when shopping increases and drivers don't take the necessary precautions to protect their personal items left in their car.

"We know that auto burglars scout mall and other large parking lots, waiting for the opportunity to break into a vehicle. Within seconds, they take your items, your identity, and, oftentimes, your car," said Susan Sampson, director of the Texas Automobile Burglary and Theft Prevention Authority (ABTPA). "Texas drivers need to understand that their careless actions actually help auto burglars and thieves do their job better."

The Texas ABTPA offer three basic safety tips to motorists to prevent these crimes during the holidays and all year round: Hide your belongings from eyesight, lock your car and take the keys. Last year, thieves stole nearly 100,000 vehicles in Texas. More than half of those had the vehicle's keys left inside. Judy Razo thought she took the right precautions when she made sure to lock her car after parking it on a busy street.

"I left one of my bags in sight in the back seat and not only did the burglars break my window, they stole my bag, which had my cell phone, money, credit cards and about $3,000 worth of camera equipment," said Razo. "When they took my belongings, they also stole my identity."

ABTPA, a part of the Texas Department of Transportation, was created by the Texas Legislature in 1991 to fund programs to reduce vehicle thefts. The passing of House Bill 1887, earlier this year, expanded the scope of the program to include automobile burglary prevention and added the term "burglary" to the authority's title. The legislation also amended the Texas Penal Code by increasing the conviction of burglary of a motor vehicle punishable as a state jail felony for those previously convicted two or more times of burglary of a vehicle.

For free bilingual booklets on auto burglary and theft prevention safety tips, call 800-CAR-WATCH or go to http://www.txwatchyourcar.com/