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Vehicle thefts double in 2020, rising elsewhere

Temple PD and Killeen PD have seen an increase in vehicle thefts and said thieves are constantly looking for open vehicles to take advantage of.

BELL COUNTY, Texas — Between January 1 and September 15, the Temple Police Department has seen 255 reported stolen vehicles. A similar time period from 2019, January 1 to the end of August, saw only 126 stolen vehicles. 

It's not a trend the department wants to see, but Temple PD Spokesman Cody Weems told 6 News the vast majority of cases start out the same way. 

"Officers are seeing that the vast majority of these cases, of vehicles that are either broken into or burglarized or stolen, are vehicles that are left unlocked," Weems said. "Vehicles that had keys in the vehicle or, maybe not the key to that vehicle, but maybe another one that you own."

Temple PD and other local departments have tried to make a strong push with their "#9pmRoutine" campaign where the public is asked to their vehicles, garage and doors as well as remove items from their vehicles. Weems said it is not secret there are people that specifically roam neighborhoods to look for an opportunity to steal something. 

"We've actually shared videos on social media of people walking down the and they just start pulling door handles and 99 percent of the time they pull one, that vehicle is locked, and they move on to the next one," Weems said. 

The Killeen Police Department has shared similar stories in that city. In one case, a woman left her vehicle running outside only to have it stolen and later crashed on I-14. 

Temple PD has a total of 193 vehicle thefts for all of 2019 and is already up to 255. Killeen PD had 312 vehicle thefts last year and is up to 264 this year. Weems said Temple PD has not found anyone factor to be responsible for the increase. He said there have been 16 arrests in stolen vehicle cases this year, but the demographics have of those suspects haven't led to any pattern. 

The only good news, Weems said the vast majority of stolen vehicles are eventually recovered. Temple PD has recovered 232 of the 255 vehicles to date.

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