Houston — Associated Press
HOUSTON — Television ads tout Texans' love of pickup trucks, but they don't mention one piece of information: That passion also extends to thieves.
Ford, Chevy and Dodge pickups top the Texas Department of Public Safety's list of vehicles most reported as stolen last year. The Texas Auto Burglary and Theft Prevention Authority said the results continue a yearslong trend supporting the popularity of pickups in the Lone Star State.
"We always tell people the reason pickups are so targeted is we are a state of pickup lovers, pickup owners and pickup drivers," Authority spokeswoman Michelle Lanham said Thursday. "If you have more of a certain type of vehicle on the road, you're bound to have more of that stolen."
Fourth on the list is the subcompact Honda Civic, followed by the Chevrolet Tahoe. The Honda Accord, GMC pickup, Chevy Impala, Toyota Camry and Ford Taurus round out the top 10. Nationwide, auto thieves target the Honda Accord the most.
"Texas is by far a different animal than the United States overall," she said. "Pickups just now are entering the top five for the United States. Pickups have been our top vehicle for many, many years."
The prevention authority, part of the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles, said vehicle theft costs Texans more than any other single crime. The total cost topped $621 million in 2011, when 63,379 passenger cars and trucks were stolen in the state — an average of 174 each day.
The 2011 figures were down from 68,219 in 2010. Overall totals for vehicles confirmed stolen in 2012 weren't available yet, Lanham said.
The vehicles stolen the most are several years old and are taken for a variety of reasons, according to the agency. Some are stripped for parts, some are resold to unsuspecting buyers, and others are taken for joyriding, for use in other crimes or for insurance fraud.
Lanham said 2011 statistics indicated 56 percent of stolen vehicles were recovered. However, that could be a mixed blessing for owners.
"Recovery doesn't necessarily mean your car is coming back to you exactly the way it looked when it took off," she said. "If you find a vehicle where everything has been taken out of and it's gutted, insurance likely is going to total it out, but that's considered 'recovered.'"
Heavy-duty pickups are thieves' preferred vehicle in the Rio Grande Valley while standard-size pickups are the top choice in the Panhandle, indicating regional preferences within the state. The state's big cities tend see more Honda thefts, which may be attributed to the manufacturer's popularity among street racing youths and because there are so many on the road, Lanham said.
In Houston, Ford and Chevy pickups generally alternate atop the monthly list of thefts reported by police, followed by Honda cars.
Lanham's Dallas office, dubbed Reduce Auto Theft in Texas, is affiliated with the University of North Texas-Dallas and is based at the university's Caruth Police Institute at the Dallas Police Department.
The authority's advice for deterring auto theft is basic: Keep valuables out of sight, lock the doors and take the keys.