By Betsy Dolan
Missouri City’s Burglary and Auto Theft Task Force (BAT) is just seven months old but already the 4-member unit has made significant strides in reducing car burglaries and auto thefts in the city. In the last year, according to the Missouri City Police Department, the BAT Task Force decreased auto theft by 23%, auto break-ins by 16%, recovered 40-stolen cars, arrested 25 auto theft suspects and recovered more than $287,000 in stolen property.
The program has been so successful that the city is applying for almost $600,000 in grant money to continue funding the four-member team as well as pay for additional high tech equipment to help recover more stolen property and vehicles.
“We do a lot of proactive programs and operations” said Sergeant Saul Luera, Missouri City Police Department. “We are constantly on patrol, keeping an eye on parking lots and neighborhoods and trying to catch the suspects in the act.”
Topping the list of desired equipment for the BAT Task Force is a bait vehicle which would look like a regular car but would be outfitted with a GPS tracking system and internal video system that activates when the vehicle is tampered with or stolen. The equipment then alerts dispatchers to track and disable the vehicle so officers can respond to the scene. The task force has also requested cell phone equipment and license plate readers which can tell investigators whether a car they are following has been stolen or is registered to a wanted felon.
“We have been very successful with putting multiple car theft cases on a single suspect,” said Detective Caleb Rule, Missouri City Police Department. “And we attribute that to our investigation techniques and with the fact that we work so well with other police departments throughout the city.”
Public awareness, acknowledged Luera, has also helped reduce burglary and car theft numbers with people less likely to leave valuables in plain site deterring so called “dash and grab” cases.
“What we are seeing more of is door pulls in neighborhoods where a suspect goes house to house checking for unlocked cars,” Luera said. “Some of these suspects work alone but others work in pairs.”
The BAT Task Force was created in September of 2011.