Special Report: From Trucks to Tanks
BROWNSVILLE, TX (KVEO NEWSCENTER 23) — To most, they're simply a means of transportation, to them, they're an integral part of their criminal operations. Every year Valley vehicles are stolen and taken into Mexico, then used by the cartels to further their illegal businesses, Na'Tassia Finley has more in this special report.
Jose Trevino, BPD Public Information Officer, "They majority of vehicles that are stolen, and not necessarily only from Brownsville, but from other border cities the majority do get crossed over."
Through May, already 48 vehicles have been stolen out of Brownsville and once they cross international lines, investigators say there's a very slim chance that they'll ever return to U.S. soil. They're no longer just considered a means of transportation, but a tool of the trade, Jose Trevino, "They're using them to further their criminal activity they're involved in."
Smuggling drugs, humans, just a few of the criminal operations and as we found here in Northern Tamaulipas, a grave yard of sorts, of recovered vehicles. Some riddled with bullet holes, some transformed into tanks to offer top of the line protection, the majority are trucks and SUV's.
In the Valley, authorities say it's the vehicles that are the most accessible that are the prime targets, Jose Trevino, "GM products, they don't have responders in their keys. Some of the Ford vehicles, the same thing, some have them some don't."
Responder are chips inside of keys, now in order for a vehicle's system to start up, the chip in the key will send and receive a message, to the engine, once the key is put in the ignition, if they match, the engine will start, if not, it won't."
Jose Trevino says another method for stealing GM models involves using what's know as a shave key, "SO your Tahoe, Suburban, Escalades, that particular type of key, they shave it down where it mimics a master key."
Earlier this year, NewsCenter 23 showed you this truck that was recovered from Northern Tamaulipas, it left Roma factory standard and came back a tank.
Brownsville PD specifically purchased the vehicle at auction when it returned to the Valley to ensure it wouldn't land back on the streets, Jose Trevino, "There is no use for a vehicle like that."
Meanwhile, a Valley wide auto theft task force, compromised of several law enforcement agencies works together to track these stolen trucks and offers advice on ways to lessen your risk of becoming an auto theft victim, Jose Trevino, "A simple thing like a club could be a deterrent from an auto theft because they're not going to waste the time trying to figure out how they are going to take the club off."
Jose Trevino adds the number of auto thefts in Brownsville, over the past five year period, has remained steady. He says it's all based on demand over in Mexico.
NewsCenter 23 reached out to viewers on Facebook in hopes of finding an auto theft victim. We found plenty, no one was comfortable enough to go on camera.
However, this viewer tells NewsCenter 23 that when her truck was found in Mexico, it was loaded down with guns and ammunition. Even the windows had been replaced with bullet proof glass. She never got her truck back, instead she had to get a new vehicle.