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Border Patrol warns of uptick in vehicle thefts

Cartels use vehicles to smuggle drugs, people

DEL RIO, Texas – U.S. Border Patrol agents in the Del Rio sector are warning the public about an upward trend in stolen vehicles.

The vehicle theft trend consists mostly of heavy-duty pickup trucks and SUVs from major metropolitan cities like Houston, Austin and San Antonio.

"They are not planning on taking these vehicles for their own personal use. These vehicles have one purpose and one purpose only -- it's to commit crime," said Supervisory Border Patrol Agent David Vera.

A total of 135 stolen vehicles have been recovered since the beginning of the fiscal year, which began Oct. 1, 2013.

Cartels and smugglers are using the vehicles to smuggle human cargo and narcotics -- the bigger the vehicle the larger the cargo capacity and power.

"What happens to the vehicle is of no consequence. What happens to the people is of no consequence either," said Vera.

The pickups most commonly stolen are Ford F-250s and Chevy Silverados.

"They'll pull the seats out. Those are some of the indicators we'll see in some of these vehicles that we encounter. The keyholes have been tampered with or broken off," said Vera. 

Thieves are even cloning work vehicles seen in the area to get past U.S. law enforcement.

"They try to blend in with the legitimate oil field traffic and so I think that's one of the reasons why they are using the bigger F-250 vehicles," Vera said.

The Del Rio Border Patrol Sector is part of the South Texas Campaign, which leverages federal, state and local resources to combat transnational criminal organizations.

To report suspicious activity related to this type of vehicle theft, call the sector's toll-free telephone number at 1-866-511-8727.