In an effort to combat auto crimes, an assistant criminal district attorney in Tarrant County will be working with a task force and only prosecute auto theft cases.
Assistant criminal district attorney Zane Reid has been appointed to work with the Tarrant Regional Auto Crimes Task Force. According to the Tarrant County Criminal District Attorney’s Office, Reid is the first prosecutor in Texas named to solely work with an auto crimes task force.
Previously, auto theft cases were sent to the DA’s Office and assigned to various prosecutors. All will now go to Reid. In a press release Tuesday announcing the effort, the office said Reid will be able to spot trends or see if there are multiple cases involving the same defendant that should be grouped together.
“I think the hope of this effort by [DA] Sharen Wilson is to provide consistency to the investigation and prosecution of these type of crimes with the ultimate goal of being greater offender accountability. To be able to identify these suspects across our cities in Tarrant County and hold them accountable,” Reid told NBC 5 Tuesday. “There’s always been a need to address this type of crime. It impacts families in our communities, where it affects their abilities to transport their kids to school or to get to their job and provide a livelihood.”
The Tarrant Regional Auto Crimes Task Force was started in 1993 to combat motor vehicle theft. Commander Bryan Sudan has been with the task force for eight years and calls it a “new era” for auto crimes.
“We’ve seen new vehicles being stolen, lower recovery rates. We’re not getting them back. They’re not getting recovered. We’re seeing some of them in Mexico. We’re seeing a lot of them taken apart, dismantled. We see them get sold to innocent purchasers,” Sudan said.
The Tarrant County Criminal District Attorney’s Office reports motor vehicle thefts in Tarrant County rose to 6,367 in 2020 from 5,895 in 2019. Burglaries from motor vehicles grew to 14,288 in 2020 from 13,884 in 2019. Fraud-related motor vehicle crimes reached 56 in 2020, up from 52 in 2019, according to statistics from the task force.
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“We are dealing with a more sophisticated and organized group of auto thieves. They don’t have to bust a column or mechanically take your keys or those things. They’re going into these cars. They’re mechanically altering them, where they’ll start. They’re going into these vehicles and reprogramming a new fob to the vehicle,” he said. “Their targets have changed. Their targets more and more now are dealerships for these types of crimes.”
At B&D Muffler & Custom Shop along N. Main Street in Fort Worth, owner Roy Bruner said at his shop... the call volume from customers regarding catalytic converter thefts has increased recently.
“On a good week, probably get somewhere between 25 and 30 cars or people calling about cars with catalytic converters taken off them,” Bruner said. “It’s a lucrative business. I mean, you take converter off a Prius, scrap…you probably can get $1,200 for it. So you tell me, they steal it.”
Regarding the new effort from the county, Bruner said he feels it’s possible it can help with crime, but he’s not fully convinced yet.
“It’s a big deal. It’s a big business,” he said.