Posted: Dec 12, 2012 6:48 PM
Updated: Dec 13, 2012 12:58 AM
EDINBURG - Chevy pickup truck owners beware. Edinburg police officials say the trucks are among the most coveted by auto thieves.
Police said criminals are after late-1990- to mid-2000-model, 4x4, four-door Chevy trucks. The reason they are so desirable is that thieves can take them in less than a minute.
They'll pop (the) butterfly switch out. Once they pop it out they'll use a flat-tip screwdriver, shove it in there, then force turn it until the ignition turns," Edinburg Police Investigator James Ramirez said.
Ramirez also is part of the South Texas Auto Theft Task Force. The group tracks stolen vehicles.
"Auto thefts usually remain steady," Ramirez said.
Ramirez said Chevrolet recently changed its trucks' ignition systems.
"Chevy or GM started using the transponder system in their trucks starting in late 2007 and on up," Ramirez said.
"Chevy's transponder system makes it virtually impossible to steal by conventional means," he said.
Ramirez said it would take high-tech equipment to get past the computer system in newer trucks.
"Most of our suspects that are stealing trucks are using flat-tip screwdrivers and Vise Grips," Ramirez said
Police said thieves often take the vehicles to commit other crimes.
"To facilitate the crime of moving undocumented immigrants or narcotics," Ramirez said.
The trucks not used to haul drugs or immigrants are typically sent south of the border.
"On our Silverados that are being taken, maybe about 20 percent will head across the border," he said.
Ramirez said the Hidalgo-Reynosa International Bridge is the preferred spot for late-night crossings.
Many times, the bridge's surveillance cameras capture images of the vehicles going south before the owners even realize they have been stolen.
"After they turn the ignition, they'll put the butterfly switch back on. Then, they'll stick any key, usually a key matching the truck," Ramirez said.
"If the officer stops them, he'll look at a key in the ignition and not know that the ignition has been messed with," he said.
Edinburg police numbers show 20 pickup trucks were stolen in the city in November.