Car break-ins are on the rise throughout El Paso, with thieves targeting driveways on the west side, apartment parking lots on the east end and everywhere in between, law enforcement officials said.
“The numbers have definitely gone up,” said Stephen Plummer, public awareness manager for the El Paso Auto Theft Task Force.
On the West Side, auto thefts are up 132% compared to last year, with 158 vehicles stolen, Plummer said. There have been 198 carjackings (a 47% increase) in the sprawling Pebble Hills police region with its shopping malls, apartment complexes and sprawling East Side neighborhoods.
Auto thefts have skyrocketed in all other policing regions: Central is up 18% (181 vehicles stolen); the northeast is up 34% (145 stolen vehicles); and Mission Valley is up 54% (129 stolen vehicles), Plummer said.
“We have a lot of active burglars right now,” Plummer said, adding that burglars attack at night in apartments and other residential areas. Auto theft investigators have made arrests and are working to make more, she added.
Auto thefts are among the most significant increases, with overall crime up 6% in El Paso through the first half of 2022, according to statistics provided by police public information officer Sgt. Henry Carrillo.
Crime statistics are a mixed bag. Car break-ins are up 48%, burglaries are up 15%, burglaries (house, vehicle, building) are down 34%, while murders and robberies are flat, Department figures show. El Paso Police.
Police officials said the increase in vehicle thefts is due to several factors, including rising vehicle prices and a resurgence in thefts after reopening following restrictions in the early part of the COVID-19 pandemic. COVID-19.
The current rate of auto theft is still much, much lower than the more than 100 cars stolen per week in El Paso in the 1980s, police officials said.
More Vehicles Stolen in El Paso This Year
El Paso is not alone in experiencing a staggering increase in vehicle thefts.
Cities across the country have seen an “unprecedented increase” in carjackings and vehicle thefts in the last five years, David Glawe, president and CEO of the National Insurance Crime Bureau, told a US Senate Judiciary Committee in March. Carjackings, the forcible theft of a vehicle through violence, have tripled in some large cities, and many of the thefts are committed by minors.
Like the rest of the nation, El Paso is also experiencing a tidal wave of catalytic converter thefts. A catalytic converter is a metal box-like device that reduces harmful gases that is connected to the exhaust system under a vehicle. The device contains precious metals sought after by scrap yards and internet buyers.
244 catalytic converters were stolen from vehicles parked in El Paso in the first six months of this year, compared to 363 in all of 2021, Plummer said.
High clearance vehicles such as SUVs, trucks and fleets including school buses have been targets of catalytic converter thieves, AAA Texas warned this week. Recyclers pay between $50 and $250 per catalytic converter, but replacing the part could cost between $1,000 and $3,000, depending on the vehicle.
AAA Texas advised drivers to park in well-lit spots near building entrances. Consider engraving the vehicle identification number (VIN) on the catalytic converter to help identify it in the event of theft. Look for security devices and locks.
Auto thefts aren’t the only crime on the rise in El Paso. There is also an increase in assaults and vandalism.
Crime categories to date compared to 2021 as of July 9:
Homicide detectives with the Crimes Against the Person Unit continue to investigate the shooting death of a 15-year-old boy on July 4 at a house in the Lower Valley; the death of Juan Francisco Grajeda, 49, in his apartment on North Laurel Street on June 20; and the death of Raúl Gerardo Zamora, 28, in front of his home on Cannon Hill Drive, in the far east, on June 23. Police officials have not yet released the name of the boy who died.
El Paso has averaged about 22 murders a year for the last 10 years. There were 40 murders in 2019, and more than half of them occurred in the Walmart mass shooting. The deadliest annual total was 56 murders in 1993.
Anyone with information on unsolved homicides, carjackings, and other criminal activity can anonymously call Crime Stoppers of El Paso at 915-566-8477 (TIPS) or leave a tip online at crimestoppersofelpaso.org.
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