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Is Your Chevy on Some Drug Gang's Radar?

When the Houston Police Department releases its monthly list of the most stolen vehicles, the makes and models rarely change. What does move the needle a bit, however, is the total number of vehicles stolen each year. According to police, there were just over 13,500 thefts last year, a 4 percent increase in auto thefts that they attribute to more people moving into the area.

That's still a far cry from the 40,000 thefts they had one year during the 1990s, veteran Houston auto theft cop, Officer James Woods said. He told Hair Balls that the two-decade decline has been due to several factors, including better technology from auto makers, more sophisticated police work and a grant the Houston police have used to step up law enforcement on the auto theft detail (you pay for this with a $2 contribution to your vehicle insurance plan).

Houston's top ten most stolen automobiles has been pretty steady for the last decade, Woods said. At the top of the list this month are Chevy trucks.

Woods said pickups are overwhelmingly stolen for drug smuggling and for bringing immigrants over the boarder. If criminals know police are looking for Ford trucks, they switch to Chevy and vice versa. And it doesn't matter if you're driving an old beater either, some unscrupulous repair shops, he said, will take stolen vehicle and strip it for parts anyway.

The police auto theft unit is constantly monitoring the transaction of stolen vehicles and probably not surprisingly has used Craigslist to bring in stolen vehicles. There are times when a victim will call police and tell them they see their vehicle or parts from their vehicle for sale on the website. It's among the many methods police use in fighting auto theft

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While Woods wouldn't give us any details about current investigations he did say the department regularly engages in undercover automobile buys. "We use everything to our advantage. We focus on using informants to call us about specific [auto theft] groups or locations," and where stolen cars are being sold, Woods said. Sometimes the undercover "buy busts" aren't successful. If they can, police try to get the entire group to come in for the sale. Proving a conspiracy to sell stolen vehicles brings the highest penalty, he said.

Just under 750 automobiles were stolen last month. If the following list is any indication, you Ford and Chevy truck owners better have some good insurance.

March's stolen vehicle tally, provided by the Houston Police Department: 1. Chevrolet Trucks: 191 2. Ford Trucks : 173 3. Honda Cars: 79 4. Toyota Cars: 62 5. Dodge Trucks: 56 6. Chevrolet Cars: 50 7. GMC Trucks: 43 8. Nissan Cars : 38 9. Ford Cars: 33 10. Acura Cars: 22

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