Gone in three minutes – that’s how fast thieves are able to steal one of the most popular vehicles in North Texas.
Police said criminals are targeting newer model GMC and Chevrolet pickup trucks, and authorities are having a hard time stopping the thefts.
For Valerie Kunkel, watching surveillance video of her truck being stolen was a shock.
During a late morning last year, surveillance cameras outside her Dallas office building recorded two people pulling up in a pickup and blocking her own 2018 Chevy Silverado.
Police said the video shows thieves remove the truck’s computer, disable its OnStar tracking system and replace it with their own computer. From the time the two thieves pull into the parking lot to the time they drive away with Kunkel’s truck, only three minutes passed.
“It should not be this easy to steal a vehicle,” Kunkel said. “No one should be able to walk up to your vehicle and within 2 minutes be pulling away when it has all these safety features.”
Det. Walter Clifton, with the North Texas Auto Theft Task Force, said for the last 18 months he’s seen a spike in stolen 2015 to 2020 GMC and Chevrolet trucks.
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“It’s an epidemic,” Clifton said.
In the case of GMC and Chevrolet trucks, Clifton said thieves have figured out how to quickly replace the truck’s computer with their own, which makes it nearly impossible for the owner or police to track it.
He showed NBC 5 video of a chop shop in Dallas County he recently uncovered. The yard was filled with $400,000 worth of stripped down trucks, including some that were stolen that morning, according to Clifton.
Clifton said thieves could fetch top dollar for the truck’s individual parts, or are successful reselling the truck with a fake title to an unassuming buyer.
He said by the time the buyer realizes they’re in possession of a stolen vehicle, they’ve lost thousands of dollars and there’s no way to find the crook who sold it to them.
“These online sellers are all fictitious, so we don’t know who we’re looking for,” Clifton said.
That’s likely what happened to Valerie Kunkel’s 2018 Chevy Silverado. Police never recovered her stolen vehicle.
“It’s really hard when you work really hard to have nice things, to pay your bills and to see someone just come and take it, it’s a horrible feeling,” Kunkel said.
The North Texas Auto Theft Task Force suggested installing a secondary anti-theft device and to never keep any valuables in your car, as insurance often will not cover stolen items inside a vehicle.
To crack down on stolen vehicles being sold, Clifton stressed to be wary of “great deals” offered on sites like craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, OfferUp and others.
And if someone is thinking of buying a car from an individual seller, call the North Texas Auto Theft Task Force and ask them to check out the VIN number and title before purchasing the vehicle. Clifton said it could prevent a buyer from purchasing a stolen car and could lead to someone else recovering their vehicle.