Chris Van Horne, NBC 5 News
The trio is accused of stealing cars when people warm up their vehicles during cold winter mornings. The Tarrant Regional Auto Crimes Task Force said the trio is accused of stealing nine cars since last Monday and Tuesday along.
Thieves have been taking advantage of the recent cold weather and taking off with idling cars.
Police in Tarrant County are warning people warming their cars to keep them locked up or it could be stolen.
"You want to warm it up and get it ready," said Josh Odom, a car thief victim. "You're not expecting someone to jump in and take off in it."
Police said they recently solved a string of car thefts in northern Tarrant County. The Tarrant Regional Auto Crimes Task Force said it was surprised to see how prolific three people were at stealing cars and so they're warning the public.
The trio of suspects would drive neighborhoods and even apartment complexes. When they noticed someone had left their car idling with no one around, they would steal it.
Whenever the weather turns cold this year Odom would warm up his car just feet from his Haltom City apartment door.
"I've been doing this for over a year, whenever the weather gets cold," Odom said. "I go warm my car up and would never have thought someone would jump in my car and go off in my car."
But that's what happened the morning of Feb. 4, when Odom was locking his front door, heard his car moving and saw Jessica Bell, 23, sitting behind the wheel of his Dodge Charger.
"My daughter yells out, 'Dad who's in your car?'" he said.
Odom gave chase, nearly getting hit in the process. He said Bell drove his car at 70 to 80 mph in his apartment complex. He and his daughter called 911 and minutes after officers arrived the car was spotted. After a high-speed pursuit, police arrested Bell after she crashed into a fire hydrant.
Police later found Christopher Tolbert, 26, and Charles Sours, 20, sitting in another stolen car in a parking lot. An officer recognized that vehicle from a "be on the look out" bulletin.
The auto crimes task force said the trio was hitting primarily in northern Haltom City and the Summerfields neighborhood in North Fort Worth.
The task force has tied the group to 11 total "warm-up" thefts, including nine alone on Monday and Tuesday of last week. The other two happened in January. The trio would steal the car, take everything of value inside of it and then use the car as transportation often to get to the next crime.
"This group certainly knew what they were looking for and drove around to find the cars they wanted," said Arlington Police Detective Jesse Minton, the public information officer for the auto crimes task force. "They took regular cars, a pickup, SUVs, they weren't too particular as long as it had the keys and was running."
Minton said these kinds of thefts happen every winter and this string of recent thefts should serve as a warning to others.
"Watch your car and help us help you to keep it from getting stolen," he said, calling the thefts of crimes of opportunity.
After his experience Odom said he now follows that advice.
"I don't care whatever the situation is, I'll sit in the cold car; never going to warm up again," Odom said.
The trio of thieves is being held on $75,000 bond in the case. They have also been tied to several storage unit robberies in the Mid-Cities.