Officials: Theft rings to blame for rise in car burglaries - - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

Officials: Theft rings to blame for rise in car burglaries

Police investigate a burglary on Thursday in Tyler. (Source: KLTV Staff) Police investigate a burglary on Thursday in Tyler. (Source: KLTV Staff)
TYLER, TX (KLTV) - As police continue the search for the second suspect in a Thursday morning car burglary that ended with gunfire, local officials say theft rings are to blame for the increase in car thefts and burglaries in counties across East Texas.

Lieutenant Jeff Maeker with the East Texas Auto Theft Task Force calls theft their daily job. 

“We have, you know, criminals that get together in groups and go out and commit these crimes,” said Maeker .

He said the cars are stolen for profit, likely to buy drugs.

“And a big part of our increases in East Texas in our thefts are not vehicles as such, not cars and trucks, they're trailers and they're ATVs. That's the big high-theft items in East Texas,” Maeker explained.

Smith County has seen a 32 percent increase in car thefts this year, while stolen vehicles in Rusk County increased by 56 percent. In Henderson County there was a 17 percent increase compared to the same time last year.

“A lot of times you'll see theft rates go up and theft rates go down, and a lot of times that's attributed to the right people being caught and stopped and we put them in jail or put them in prison hopefully. And they can actually have an effect on things,” he said.

In July, two men were sentenced in Smith County for a string of auto burglaries, stealing thousands of dollars worth of items from cars across East Texas. 

Burglary rates have dropped this year. A 33 percent decrease in Smith County and a 61 percent decrease in Rusk County.  Meanwhile, Henderson County has seen a 22 percent decrease.

But, Krista Caulkins with the Smith County Sheriff's Office said car burglaries have been on their way back up recently .

“There are some people who have done this many, many times before. [They] have probably been in and out of the jail system stealing many many cars, but I also know that a lot of thefts and burglaries in particular are more of a crime of opportunity,” Caulkins explained.

There have been 55 car burglaries in Smith County in the last 65 days. She said the thieves are rarely armed as they were in the most recent incident in Tyler.

“It's people leaving their items in plain sight, leaving the windows down or the car unlocked and someone walks by grabs a purse, grabs whatever there is and then keeps going,” she said.

All of those situations make people easy targets.

“We just ask that people realize that there are professional thieves driving around every day,” Maeker said. “A lot of times during the daytime just looking to see what they can find to come back and steal.”

Officials said they catch new burglary and theft rings each year, but there are constantly new ones popping up. The best way to keep yourself from falling victim is keeping vehicles and anything inside them locked and hidden away. They explain that as long as there is profit to be made stealing, there will be theft rings.

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