Black Friday is only a memory, and Cyber Monday has passed. But the bargain hunting season has only just begun for one type of shopper . . . . . vehicle criminals!The Texas Auto Burglary and Theft Prevention Authority (ABTPA), a division of the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles, reminds drivers that a vehicle is burglarized every two minutes and stolen every eight minutes in the state. These crimes can escalate during the holiday season when drivers are frequently out shopping for gifts and traveling to visit friends and family. During these times, drivers are more likely to leave belongings within view inside vehicles as well as become negligent in locking doors and taking keys. To make matters worse, a thief won’t necessarily stop with taking your vehicle and the things inside. They may also look for personal documents that can help them steal your identity or that indicate where you live so they can burglarize additional property from your home. In other words, the theft or burglary of your vehicle may simply be a gateway to the commission of additional crimes.“We know auto burglars scout malls, shopping centers, entertainment venues, hotels, and other business parking lots this time of year looking for opportunities to break into vehicles,” said Michelle Lanham, program manager for ABTPA’s Reduce Auto Theft in Texas (RATT) public awareness task force at the University of North Texas Dallas Caruth Police Institute. “Drivers need to understand that almost anything they leave inside their vehicles can be valuable to a thief. And when vehicles are left unlocked and unattended, drivers are inviting thieves to walk away with everything they see inside, which often includes gifts, purses, wallets, packages, electronics, suitcases, garage door openers, keys, and personal information,”According to the Texas Department of Public Safety, thieves committed 221,065 acts of vehicle burglary and stole 63,379 vehicles in Texas during 2011. In some jurisdictions, more than half of vehicle thefts occurred because doors were unlocked and keys left inside. But drivers can avoid becoming part of these statistics. The ABTPA and its 29 vehicle crime task forces in Texas offer three basic safety tips to motorists to help prevent vehicle crimes during the holidays and throughout the year: remove belongings from view, secure vehicles, and never leave keys inside. In addition to practicing these prevention methodologies, drivers should park in areas that are well-lit, near surveillance cameras (if available), and near heavy foot and vehicle traffic. The more thieves feel threatened by detection, the less likely they are to focus on targets in such vulnerable areas.The Texas Auto Theft Prevention Authority (ATPA) was created by the Texas Legislature in 1991 to fund programs to reduce vehicle thefts. The passing of House Bill 1887 in 2007 expanded the scope of the agency to include automobile burglary and added that term to the Authority’s title. For more information on the ABTPA, auto burglary, vehicle theft, prevention, statistics, contacts for any of ABTPA’s 29 Texas vehicle crime task forces, public service announcements, or to schedule an interview with task force personnel, call 800-CAR-WATCH or visit the website at www.txwatchyourcar.com.