HOUSTON — The Houston Police Department said it's seeing a recent spike in thieves targeting a large number of cars in apartment parking garages.
Sgt. Tracy Hicks with HPD's Auto Theft Crimes Task Force said Wednesday that in the past week and a half, there have been at least four incidents where apartments have been hit with car break-ins inside their parking garage.
Some have had anywhere from 15 to 20, and even up to 50 cars broken into at once.
Hicks said thieves were likely looking for guns.
"When people stop leaving their guns in their car," Hicks said. "these crimes will go down."
In 2022, HPD reported that about 4,400 guns were stolen from vehicles. It was a surge compared to 2021 when 3,700 guns were stolen from vehicles.
"What we've seen is they're really looking for guns," Hicks said. "The days of the laptops have gone away."
Hicks said thieves also target specific vehicles at different locations across the city. Having certain stickers, like gun brands or NRA, can tip them off.
One of the recent incidents with car break-ins was at the Ashford Apartments along I-10 where 50 cars had broken windows.
"This is definitely shocking, for over 50 cars. That's a lot of cars to get broken into," Derek Lou said.
Lou, a resident, said his car has been broken into twice.
Several residents there said they're worried about safety, claiming the garage gate doesn't work properly.
"If you're advertising, you know, private access, garage and all this stuff, this doesn't look private. It's broken all the time," Toni Whitelow said, a resident at Ashford Apartments. "I just want it to be fixed so I don't have to worry about this anymore."
So, what rights do renters have?
KHOU 11 legal analyst Carmen Roe said renters do have rights if they can prove negligence.
"Negligence means that they are failing to provide reasonable safety measures, such as a proper working gate, proper lighting and things of that sort," Roe said. "The issue becomes when they provide those services, residents rely on those gates, those lights, that security guard and those things are not functioning, are not really being provided to them in a reasonable way."
Roe said if residents want to take legal action, they need to look over their lease agreement and any other contracts they signed.
When it comes to protecting yourself and your belongings, HPD said there are some things you can try.
"The best thing we can do, obviously, is not leaving valuables in plain sight. Upgrading your alarm so you have a remote sensor and then, never ever leave a gun in the car. Crooks are always going to go back to where they've made money," Hicks said.
HPD said they have a few leads on one of the groups of people that may be responsible for at least two of the incidents recently. They're looking into the others.
KHOU 11 reached out to the Ashford Apartments, but we have not gotten a response.