DALLAS-FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) - A vehicle is reported stolen in Dallas on average every 54 minutes and the problem is getting worse.
While overall property crime in North Texas is down, auto thefts in Dallas have increased more than 18 percent in the past year.
Reports of stolen vehicles in Fort Worth are slightly down from a year ago but are up 19 percent from just two years ago.
Investigators point to keys being left inside vehicles as the reason for the increase.
Sergeant Bryan Roden, who heads up the Dallas police auto theft unit, said four out of every ten cars stolen this past year in the city had the keys left inside.
Sgt. Roden said that is more than in year's past.
"It would help us out a lot if people would just keep track of their keys," he said. "People should treat their keys like they treat cash or their wallets."
75220 zip code top Dallas hot spot for stolen cars
The CBS 11 I-Team analyzed thousands of auto theft cases to find out where your car is most likely to be stolen.
In Fort Worth, the area with the most reported stolen cars is the 76119 zip code in south east Fort Worth.
In Dallas, the most reported cases are in the 75220 zip code just north of Love Field. Here, on average, nearly two cars are stolen every day.
The apartment complexes north of Bachman Lake are especially hot spots for cars thieves.
According to police records, apartment complexes are the number one place vehicles are stolen from in Dallas accounting for the location of one in every three thefts.
Convicted car thief: "No car is safe anywhere"
The I-Team interviewed three men in state prison who were serving time for felony auto theft to find out what makes more car more of a target than the next.
All three felons said breaking into any car is easy.
"No car ever is safe anywhere," said Jadaverion King, who said he's stolen at least eight cars.
James Florez, who would not say how many cars he's stolen, said, "All you have to do is grab a key, file it, stick it in the ignition, play with the ignition, and then vroom - it's on."
Even newer models with chip keys and push start technology, Florez said no match for car thieves.
"Give them three minute time frame time, they can get into the car and turn it on," he explained from jail. "They can bypass everything - the alarm - everything. If a person wants it, he'll get it."
However, more times than not these felons said stealing a car requires no skill at all.
Anthony Medina, who was convicted of stealing two trucks, said in both cases he found keys were left inside an unlocked vehicle.
"When I opened the truck, the keys were in there," he said. "Basically, it's his (owner's) fault, you know what I mean."
Sgt. Roden said cases are harder to prosecute when a thief does not have to break-in and when the keys are just sitting inside.
According to police records, less than one in ten reported stolen cars ends with a suspect being arrested.
Bait cars lead to 170 arrests in Dallas last year
The Dallas police auto theft unit has 15 detectives responsible for investigating the city's growing number of stolen vehicle cases. From September 2017 to September 2018, more than 9,600 vehicles were reported stolen in the city.
"It's become challenging in the past year or so but it's something that we have to do," Roden said.
The department has found success recently with the use of more than a dozen bait cars.
Roden said last year bait cars lead to more than 170 arrests.
Dallas auto theft investigators are also more utilizing license plate readers in known hot spots and conducting more inspections known 'chop shops' that have a reputation of buying stolen cars.
Theft victim starts online group to find stolen trucks
Holden McDermott, an independent welder, had his Ford F-250 truck stolen twice in the span of 13 months from the same parking lot in North Dallas.
McDermott not only relied on his truck to make a living but had a personal connection to his pickup.
"It's my pride. It's my joy," he said about his F-250. "Plus, because the truck was my grandpa's and it had that sentimental value of me wanting it since was 16, it hit me a lot harder when it was stolen."
His truck was recovered both times after being stolen, but the second time investigative found it stripped.
"Interior was gone. Bumper was gone. It was trashed," McDermott explained.
Even before his own truck was stolen, McDermott had started a Facebook page called Stolen and Found Vehicles of Texas.
By posting pictures of stolen vehicles online dozens have been tracked down.
McDermott said the group receives ten to fifteen new posts a day.
He said, "It's one of those things that can happen to anyone. I mean it happened to me twice."
Dallas top zip codes for auto theft
Fort Worth top zip codes for auto theft
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