Auto theft is big business in the Valley and is a crime of opportunity. It takes a car thief only a few seconds to steal a vehicle. Thousands of cars are stolen in the state of Texas each year. Every vehicle, no matter the make, model or year, is a target for thieves. TxDOT is combating this by educating the public about what they can do to lessen their chances of being a victim. According to a TxDOT report, each year more vehicle thefts occur in July than in any other month.

Most vehicles are stolen between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. and can be stolen anywhere, anytime — from parking lots, schools, work, home driveways and even taken forcibly while the driver is still in the automobile. The crime of stealing a car forcibly while the owner is present is known as carjacking. It can happen anywhere, not just in “high crime” neighborhoods, and is just as likely to occur during the day as at night. Simply put, no car or location is immune to carjacking.

Thieves look for cars that can be resold quickly or stripped for parts. In most cases, a vehicle’s parts are worth two to three times the value of the vehicle. Although new vehicles are targets of car thieves, older models are increasingly desirable. Many vehicles are resold to unknowing and unsuspecting buyers. If a person knowingly buys a stolen car, he or she can be arrested. If a person buys a stolen car unknowingly, he or she could lose the car and the money paid to purchase the car.

No vehicle anti-theft device is 100 percent theft-proof and discouraging thieves is not an easy task. A thief’s greatest enemy is time. The more difficult your car is to steal, the longer it takes to be stolen. And the more time a thief has to spend stealing your car, the greater the chance of detection. By making your car a tougher target, the thief will probably move on to a car that is easier to steal. By installing anti-theft devices on your vehicle, you may qualify for a discount on your insurance. Check with your insurance agency about their programs.

Here are a few steps you can take to avoid being a victim of vehicle theft:

When you park, take your keys with you and never leave a second set in your vehicle. Twenty percent of stolen vehicles had keys inside them, making the theft even easier.

Lock your car and close your windows. Almost half of all stolen vehicles were left unlocked.

Park in well-lit or heavily-trafficked areas. Thieves do not like witnesses. If possible, find a monitored lot or garage.

If you have to give your keys to an attendant, give only the ignition key. Keep your trunk and glove box locked at all times. Try to get separate keys for the ignition and the trunk and glove box.

Never leave your car running while unattended. Cars are often stolen at convenience stores, gas stations or when an owner leaves the vehicle running to warm it up.

Hide your valuables. Belongings left in sight can make your vehicle a target.

To find out how to register your vehicle with the Watch Your Car program called H.E.A.T (Help End Auto Theft), call 1-888-447-5933 or visit