Susy Solis, NBCDFW.com
July is the worst month for car thefts and burglaries according to police, so now more than ever you should remember to: lock your car, take your keys and hide your belongings.
Auto thefts have declined significantly since 1991, but police say they are still a huge problem.
July is the worst month of the year for car thefts and burglaries, and the Tarrant Regional Auto Crimes Task Force launched a monthlong public awareness campaign aimed at reducing auto theft.
Matt Pederson, task force team leader, said summer months are the worst because drivers often leave their cars running unattended while they run into a store or day care to keep their air conditioners on.
Half of all stolen vehicles are unlocked, and nearly one-third have the keys in the ignition, said Michelle Lanham, of Reduce Auto Theft in Texas.
"It's our job to help reduce crime, but we've got to get a little help from you all," Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez said. "The public has to help us."
Last year in Texas, there were more than 68,000 auto thefts and 250,000 car burglaries.
"When you look at the financial loss due to those crimes, we're looking at roughly approaching $1 billion in the state of Texas," Lanham said.
Police say reducing auto theft is important because stolen cars are often used in more serious crimes, including identity theft, drug trafficking, human smuggling and the sale of stolen goods.
People should always hide their valuables, take their keys and lock their doors, police say.
"If auto theft rates continue to drop as they have in past years, then the crime rate will drop, and the quality of life will increase at the same time,' Arlington Police Chief Theron Bowman said.
Car thefts have declined 57 percent since the Texas Automobile Theft Prevention Authority was formed in 1991.