Internal HPD memo shows auto theft crimes increased 20% in January

HOUSTON – An internal Houston Police Department memo highlighting points from a monthly crime report shows auto theft crimes went up in the city in the first month of the year, some by dramatic rates.

According to the memo, which was obtained by KPRC 2 and written by Commander Dana Hitzman of the auto theft division, all auto theft crimes increased by “approximately 20%.”

Houston police characterize the numbers in the memo as “informal” and “unofficial” and said the purpose was to alert appropriate HPD divisions to trends.

Theft from motor vehicle rate

The memo said thefts from motor vehicles continue to increase in Houston. According to the memo, police have seen a 40% increase in 2019 compared to 2018. It also showed a “significant” increase from 217 motor vehicle thefts in January 2019 to 524 motor vehicle thefts in January 2020.

Types of crimes and cars targeted

According to the memo, HPD is seeing more wheel/rim thefts and noted anecdotally, that newer model Toyota sedans appear to be targeted more than other vehicle types.

Gun thefts from vehicles

The memo states gun thefts related to auto theft crimes continue to climb and were up 25% since January.

Cases dismissed?

The memo also stated that several cases of unauthorized use of a motor vehicle (UUMV) have been dismissed in court for “no probable cause” and refers to “best practices related to UUMV PC (probable cause) statements."

“We need to make sure we have all the elements of the crime within the charge information and not only are we taking the steps to educate our officers and make sure that we have our summary of facts correct but we also are partnering with the Harris County District Attorney’s Office to make sure we can have the biggest impact we can on these crimes,” Hitzman said in an interview with KPRC 2.