It doesn’t matter what make and model car or truck you drive, all vehicles are a potential target of theft.

According to the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles, nearly 65,000 cars and trucks are stolen in Texas each year. Thousands more are burglarized.

Almost half of all vehicles stolen had the keys left inside them, making them an easy target for even a novice thief. These 50 percent were also left unlocked.

Leaving the ignition key in your vehicle while unattended isn’t just an invitation to have your vehicle stolen; it is an invitation to your insurer to question paying your claim and a reason for them not to renew your coverage. In short, leaving your keys in your vehicle while you’re away in imbecilic and costly.

Top 10 most stolen vehicles

According to statistics made available by the insurance industry and the Texas Department of Public Safety, the vehicles most coveted and stolen by thieves are:

1. Ford Pickup

2. Chevrolet Pickup

3. Dodge Pickup

4. Chevrolet Tahoe

5. Honda Civic

6. Honda Accord

7. GMC Pickup

8. Chevrolet Impala

9. Toyota Camry

10. Nissan Altima

To avoid becoming the victim of auto theft, two simple phrases should be remembered and heeded. Never unlocked and nothing in view. My motto is take it, hide it, lock it.

Always lock your vehicle and take your keys.

Never leave your car running and unattended, even in cold weather or for a quick trip inside a convenience store.

Park in well-lit areas.

Keep valuables, including money and electronics out of sight and in a secure area.

Give valets and parking attendants only the ignition key if possible. Today’s vehicles usually use one key for all functions, however, radio tuning, glove box and accessories can usually be electronically locked or disabled by programming.

If your vehicle is stolen

Although the rate of vehicle theft in Texas is happily in decline, thousands are stolen every year. If yours is stolen, follow these steps:

Immediately contact the police in your jurisdiction and file a report. Provide Vehicle identification Number (VIN) and license plate number together with the make and model. If you do not know the VIN, get it from your insurance provider or financial lender.

Report the theft to your insurance carrier. Even if the loss is not covered, reporting the crime will protect you in the event your vehicle is used to cause harm to others or is used in the commission of a crime.

Contact your financial institution if the vehicle is leased or being financed.

Don’t buy a stolen vehicle

Particularly in Texas, many stolen vehicles are altered to avoid identification as such. If you knowingly buy a stolen vehicle, you are a party to the original crime and can be arrested. If you unknowingly buy a stolen vehicle, you can lose the car and the money you paid for it. To avoid being victimized by a car thief, follow these rules:

When buying from a private individual or shady dealer, ensure the title and registration match the name and address of person selling the car. Ask for photo identification.

Avoid any seller with no fixed address, verifiable place of employment or phone number.

Ensure the vehicle identification number (VIN) on the vehicle’s dash is present, secure and unaltered. Check to be satisfied that the VIN plate has not been repainted and that the numbers stamped into the plate appear to be factory installed.

If in doubt about the VIN plate authenticity, check with a new car dealer who handles the same model, or contact your law enforcement agency. Thieves are known to remove the VIN plate and replace it with one from a similar wrecked vehicle.

Finally, be very suspicious of any deal that seems “too good to be true.”

John Vander WERFF is a 30-year veteran of law enforcement, with a decade in city and county law enforcement and 20 years with state police.

John Vander Werff is a 30-year veteran of law enforcement and a Copperas Cove resident.​

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