SAN ANTONIO – A troubling trend is emerging when it comes to vehicle thefts in the San Antonio area.
Figures show the numbers of thefts in both the city and country so far this year are already outpacing those for the same time period last year.
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“We’re definitely seeing an increase in the amount of stolen vehicles,” said Det. Cuellar, with the San Antonio Police Department. “Just this year alone, in January, there have been close to 1,300 stolen vehicles.”
Cuellar, who we purposely identified only by his last name, works undercover in SAPD’S Auto Theft Division, a nearly two dozen member team that has been scrambling to stay on top of the problem.
The Bexar County Sheriff’s Office also has had a busy time lately.
Figures show the number of thefts for the fiscal year, from October 1, 2022 to February 28, 2023, is almost double what it was at the same time last year.
There have been 619 vehicle thefts this year, compared to 358 in 2022.
“Over half the stolen vehicles are left unlocked or with the keys inside the vehicle,’ Cuellar said, referring to what he sees in the city. “That number’s gone up to almost 60 percent now.”
Damon Davis, however, insists that his car was locked when it was stolen from his far West Side apartment complex in January.
“They cut my window, broke my sunroof, got in my car, programmed a key FOB and it was gone,” he said. “I feel violated. There’s nothing we can do.”
Two out-of-town families visiting San Antonio felt the same anguish recently.
They were staying at the same Southeast Side hotel and woke up that same morning to find their F-250 pickups stolen from the parking lot.
SAPD figures show Ford F-series trucks are the most commonly-stolen vehicles in the city right now.
Also on the top-ten list are four different varieties of Kia brand vehicles, including the Optima, Forte, Soul and Sportage.
The Hyundai Sonata also occupies one of the top spots.
Cuellar said that is due to a recent social media post teaching people how to steal those two brands of vehicles.
Other pickups, including the Chevrolet Silverado, Dodge Ram, and GMC Sierra, also are hot in demand among thieves.
“We see a lot of these trucks heading down south towards Mexico, whether it’s smuggling drugs or persons,” Cuellar said.
To help combat the problem, police recommend that people make sure they lock their vehicles and park in well-lighted places.
They say using a steering wheel lock, similar to the versions that were popular in the 1980s and 90s, also might help.
Still, police say if a criminal is determined to take your vehicle, there may be no way to stop that person.
“There’s no fool-proof, 100 percent way to not have your vehicle stolen. Criminals will find a way,” Cuellar said. “The sooner you report it, the better. The time lapse makes a huge difference in the success rate of us recovering that vehicle.”
For more on what to do if your car is stolen, click here.