HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) – Car theft. It's a frustrating crime that can happen to anyone.

According to the latest data available from the Houston Police Department, auto thefts over the past 12 months have increased 28% compared to the annual average over the previous four years.

ABC13 asked HPD officers with their auto theft division about tips and devices to help prevent thieves from victimizing drivers. Police said it may seem obvious, but if your car is stolen, before you think about doing anything else, you should call the police.

“If you live somewhere where there are cameras, look at their footage,” Officer Washington said. “Have it available to law enforcement when they arrive on a flash drive or USB so we can go ahead and begin the process with your investigation.”

Washington said before any potential theft happens, she wants you to be intentional about ways to prevent car theft. She suggests using devices like steering wheel locks.

“The old club system, if used correctly, can work,” Washington said.

The steering wheel lock is a metal rod that prevents the steering wheel from turning. It takes time and a lot of work for a thief to get you out of the wheel. She also recommends alarm systems and tracking devices.

SEE ALSO: Nearly 10 People Operating Auto Theft Ring Targeting Houston Airport Garages, HPD Says

“These modern alarm systems have tracking devices,” she said. “Ignition immobilizers, it’s something that can shut down your car if it’s stolen.”

Washington said leaving anything visible inside your car could make you a victim.

“Especially gym bags, purses and wallets,” she said. “(Some) situations I’ve seen where people leave their driver’s license and social security cards in the car.”

Believe it or not, Washington said drivers constantly leave their keys in their car consoles.

“That will make you a victim,” Washington said. “Leaving your keys in your car makes it easier for someone to victimize you and take your car in seconds.”

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