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As human smuggling from Mexico into the United States becomes more common, transporting undocumented immigrants through the country in stolen vehicles is on the rise and has now affected South Texas communities.
Frio County deputies say a local man was able to follow a thief who had stolen his Ford F250 from his residence along FM 1581 on Sunday, July 11.
According to a report on the case, the thief was able to break into the pick-up truck using a key fob.
The owner followed the suspect until the driver crashed the truck in the brush and evaded arrest by fleeing on foot.
“Auto theft has been increasing,” Frio Chief Deputy Peter Salinas said. “It has become a prominent threat in South Texas because these vehicles normally cannot be tied back to the thief. But not in this case.”
Salinas said his team of investigators recovered evidence that the suspect left in the vehicle and that the material will help lead to an identification.
“The theft appears to be tied to the ongoing human smuggling crisis in our area,” the chief deputy said. “Our agency and community must remain united in order to stop this type of criminal activity.”
Ranchers in the area have expressed their frustration with the uptick in human smuggling cases, mainly because drivers of stolen vehicles carrying undocumented immigrants have plowed through fences and damaged other property.
The sheriff’s office is warning that although there is no seasonal pattern for vehicle thefts, the proximity to the border and IH-35 has now made Frio County a hot spot for car thieves. The department is offering some tips on how to help ensure that a vehicle is less attractive as a target for thieves.
“Always roll up the car windows, close the sunroof and lock the car,” officers tell vehicle owners. “Never leave the car running unattended, even if you are just quickly running into your home or the store.
“Never mark your keys with your name and address,” the officers add. “Try to park the car facing an obstacle and turn the wheels toward the curb; etch the vehicle identification number onto the glass and other parts of the car; remove registration papers from the vehicle; do not hide a spare set of keys anywhere on or near the car; install an anti-theft system; park your car in a well-lit area; keep valuables out of plain sight; and do not leave your keys near an open window at home.