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About the Southeast Texas Auto Theft Task Force
In 1993, the Wall Street Journal reported that the City of Beaumont, Texas had the largest increase from 1991 to 1992 of any city in the United States with a population of 100,000 people or more. The increase was 54%. In response the Beaumont Police Department applied for a state grant, which was used to form the Southeast Texas Auto Theft Task Force.
The auto theft task force is a multi-jurisdictional, multi-agency unit that is comprised of investigators from the Beaumont Police Department, the Port Arthur Police Department, the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office, and the Hardin County Sheriff’s Office. The unit is responsible for investigating auto theft related criminal activity in Jefferson, Orange, Hardin and Jasper Counties.
The task force is funded through a state grant that is renewed on a yearly basis. The grants are administered by the Texas Auto Burglary & Theft Prevention Authority, a division of the Texas Department of Transportation. The funds that are received each year by the ABTPA are not from tax dollars, but rather, from insurance dollars. $2.00 is added to every auto insurance policy written in the State of Texas for auto burglary and theft prevention programs each year. Then the ABTPA accepts grant applications from all over the state before deciding where auto burglary and theft prevention funds should be dispersed.
The mission statement of the auto theft task force is as follows:
The task force will concentrate its efforts in those areas believed to have the greatest impact on area auto burglaries and thefts. First, a program will be established to inspect, monitor and inventory local repair shops, salvage yards and parts dealers. Second, street gang related thefts and organized theft rings will be targeted through the development of informants and intelligence sources, covert surveillance, undercover and sting operations. The task force will also provide training to area patrol officers in the detection and recovery of stolen vehicles and property. Third, through the use of media campaigns and public awareness programs, the task force will endeavor to better inform the public in methods of auto burglary and theft prevention. To accomplish the above mission the task force was divided into two branches, investigation and prevention. The investigation branch investigates auto theft related cases, conducts inspections of salvage yards and vehicle repair shops, initiates undercover and surveillance operations.
To date the task force has had a major impact on auto thefts in Jefferson County. In 2015, only 470 auto thefts were reported in the county. This was the lowest number of reports since the 1980's and is a 81% reduction from the 2,762 auto theft reports that were filed in 1992. Since joining the task force, Orange County, Hardin County, and Jasper County have also experienced significant reductions of their own.
The prevention branch of the unit is responsible for media and public relations, auto theft prevention presentations, and police officer training.
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