Drag Racing and Drug Smuggling Drive Houston's Car Thefts

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Photo by Gail Delaughter/KUHF

(Houston, TX -- Gail Delaughter, KUHF)  When you check out the list of most stolen vehicles in Houston you typically see heavy-duty trucks, usually Ford and Chevys.  But during the month of October Honda cars took the top spot. Police say close to two hundred Hondas were reported stolen, and they have a good idea as to why those cars are popular with thieves.

"People have gone out and taken some older cars, turned around and upgraded the motors and transmissions for street racing," said Houston Police Department Auto Theft Investigator Jim Woods.

He explained that Honda has turned out a lot of cars over the years and that means there's a lot of available vehicles. Woods says motors burn out during the wear and tear of street racing, so thieves will go looking for a vehicle they can use for replacement parts. Cars that are modified for racing can also wind up stolen.

"So if you have somebody that's got a car they've turned around, and made some modifications to, they could have put quite a bit of money into it. And performance-wise it could have a lot more horsepower that what it was originally designed for," Woods added.

And while cars top the list of stolen vehicles, Woods says trucks are still popular targets. He says stolen trucks are often taken to border areas where they're used to transport illegal immigrants. They're also used to smuggle drugs. Trucks are preferred by thieves who want to evade police, Wood, says. "They just drive [the stolen vehicle] off-road and drive as far back as they can before everybody bails out."

Noticeably absent from Houston's stolen-car list are high-end vehicles like Mercedes and BMW. Woods says the reason for that is that luxury cars aren't sold in the same volume as less-expensive vehicles. Also manufacturers have made those cars harder to steal.

Listen to the radio version of this story at KUHF.