Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport has been grappling with motor vehicle theft on its premises amid a nationwide surge in such crimes.
Auto theft has become a huge issue nationwide over the past two years, with airport parking lots emerging as the preferred hunting grounds for car thieves.
In a statement provided to NBC 5 DFW addressing the matter, Chris McLaughlin, the executive vice president of operations at DFW Airport, said that while the airport has certainly not been immune to thieves, it has seen fewer motor vehicle thefts than its counterparts nationwide.
“At DFW, for example, we have had more than 7.2 million vehicles parked in our customer spaces from January through July. That means the overall rate of stolen vehicles from airport property is less than 14 cars per 1 million parked vehicles,” explained McLaughlin.
DFW Airport’s 28-square-mile premises are monitored by video surveillance systems and patrolled by a specialized police force.
The airport’s police department, McLaughlin said, also works in concert with local and federal agencies to tackle auto thefts head-on. The collaboration is especially vital since organized crime rings are suspected of being behind many incidents.
This appeared to be the case in August when Jamond Dasman Turner and Kyla Cheyanne Pellerin were allegedly caught on video surveillance cameras attempting to steal a Dodge Ram TRX from the Terminal A parking garage.
As McLaughlin recalled, DFW Airport Police connected the pair to four separate motor vehicle thefts. Both suspects were charged with auto theft and engaging in organized criminal activity. A third individual believed to be involved is still at large. Turner and Pellerin appear to have been from Houston, according to their jail records.
Despite DFW Airport’s layers of security, auto thefts still happen.
Chaz Mady, a businessman from Denton, returned from a trip to Las Vegas last month and found that his truck had vanished without a trace. He had even taken a photo of where he left it so as not to forget.
“I was holding the picture up, looking back and forth, and thought surely I’m in the wrong spot,” Mady recalled while speaking with NBC 5. “That’s when I went to the valet and said, ‘Am I crazy, or am I in the right spot?’ He said, ‘No, you’re in the right spot, your truck is probably gone.’”
The theft was a significant setback for Mady, who had recently purchased the truck to transport inventory from a warehouse in Dallas to his two stores in Denton.
Mady was not optimistic about authorities ever recovering his truck.
“I checked under my toll tag account, and I saw that on Saturday night, it was on the tollway in Houston,” he said.
In a recent interview with CBS News Texas, Dallas Police Chief Eddie Garcia weighed in on the scourge of auto theft hitting Dallas, which has logged a year-over-year increase in motor vehicle thefts of over 40% as of November 2, logged by the City’s crime overview dashboard.
Garcia explained that this type of crime is notoriously difficult to solve. His department clocked a 4.5% clearance rate last year. As such, car thieves are seldom caught even though approximately 75% of victims eventually get their vehicles back, according to Garcia.
The Dallas Police Department’s ongoing officer shortage has not helped thwart car thieves, with Garcia noting he had only a dozen officers assigned to investigating motor vehicle thefts. Despite a City analysis stating that a city the size of Dallas should have about three officers for every 1,000 residents (roughly 4,000 officers in total), the department currently fields fewer than 3,200 officers.
The personnel shortfall has hit Downtown Dallas. The neighborhood remains a hotbed of criminal activity of all kinds, but especially auto theft, with one study comparing Dallas’ city center to Fort Worth’s downtown area and finding that over the course of one month, 91 motor vehicle thefts occurred in the former compared to just two in the latter. Fort Worth’s city center is reportedly patrolled by a dedicated police unit working alongside private security guards.
As local authorities work to reign in high rates of motor vehicle theft in Dallas and the surrounding area, they ask members of the public — especially those driving high-value vehicles — to take extra precautions to deter criminals. This might include using a steering wheel locking device or an OBD port lock device.