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Tailgates Are the New Texas T for Auto Thieves

2016 Chevrolet Silverado 1500

CARS.COM — In Texas, when someone tells you to watch your tail, you should probably take it literally. According to the latest study by the National Insurance Crime Bureau of the growing phenomenon of tailgate theft from pickup trucks and SUVs during the past five years, the Lone Star State shone brightest among all others.

Related: Protect Your Tailgate Against Tailgate-Jacking

In 2014 and 2015, NICB reported, Texas logged 1,421 tailgate thefts, including 788 in 2014 and 633 in 2015. Despite the 20-percent dip between years, the total was still by far the highest in the nation. That’s also despite California’s incidence of tailgate theft spiking 6 percent between years to 875 total — still less than two-thirds Texas’ tally. Rounding out the top five were Florida (252 thefts), Arizona (204), and Pennsylvania (68).

Among cities, Texas also dominated the top places for tailgate theft in 2014-15. Houston had 300 thefts, Dallas had 276 and San Antonio had 141. Phoenix and Fresno, Calif., trailed with 68 and 51 thefts, respectively. When comparing theft totals among cities from 2012-13 to 2014-15, the biggest spike occurred in Mesquite, Texas, with the crime surging 450 percent. Other major increases during that period occurred in Los Angeles (250 percent), Dallas (203 percent) and Houston (107 percent).

The total number of tailgate thefts on which insurance claims were made in the U.S. in 2015 (the actual number, including unreported thefts, could be much higher) was 1,787. While that’s a 6-percent decline from 2014’s 1,895 thefts, the dip pales in comparison to how much the crime grew over the course of five years. In 2010 — when NICB began tracking the crime — there were 430 thefts, followed by 472 in 2011, 831 in 2012 and 1,090 in 2013. In other words, tailgate theft grew by nearly 4.5 times between 2010 and its peak in 2014.

NICB said a new tailgate for a 2015 pickup costs around $1,300, helping to explain the demand on the illegal market for stolen parts. As advanced safety features on modern vehicles make auto theft increasingly difficult, many criminals have turned to component theft to make illicit ends meet.

“The underground market is driven by demand for items that can be acquired at a fraction of their legitimate cost,” NICB stated. “Tailgates are no exception. While many of these stolen tailgates end up on similar vehicles, others are simply sold for scrap, which contributes to the nationwide problem of metal theft.”

While tailgate thefts can happen anywhere, NICB said car dealerships and shopping mall parking lots are common locations for the crime, which can take just a short time to pull off. Aftermarket security devices such as hinge locks are available to prevent, or at least dissuade, thieves from making you a victim.