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Following high-speed chase, authorities acknowledge rise in auto theft

Following the arrest of a high-speed chase suspect who police say was driving a stolen car, authorities acknowledge a rise in auto theft throughout the Borderland.

“It’s a big deal for a victim of such a crime,” said Dan Trujillo, a spokesman for the Las Cruce Police Department. “All of a sudden, you’re left without a vehicle.”

Trujillo said many thefts occur during the winter when people leave their cars warming up with the key in the ignition. “We don’t need a crime of opportunity to present itself,” Trujillo said.

In Doña Ana County, there have been 759 auto thefts from 2013 to 2018, according to the sheriff’s department.

The Las Cruces Police Department reports 1,495 auto thefts from 2013 to 2018.

The number of thefts has grown in Las Cruces: from 171 thefts in 2013 to 302 thefts in 2018. Below is a breakdown by year:

“I came outside and noticed my car was gone,” said Betty Tena.

The Las Cruces mother told ABC-7 her 1990 White Toyota Camry was taken from her property after she went to sleep on Monday. Tena said the “putter” was her biggest purchase in life.

“It’s the only thing I have that I own in my name,” she recalled. “I was traumatized.”

After posting a photo of her car with a license plate in a Facbeook group, one user commented that she had seen it about five miles west of Tena’s home on Pueblo Street in central Las Cruces. Tena was able to recover it less than 24 hours after it went missing.

“It’s a putter, but she’s my white lightning,” Tena said. “She gets me to where I need to go.”

Tena suspects someone started her car with a screwdriver after tearing away at the rubber seal in the driver’s side window. She said the rise in auto thefts don’t surprise her.

“I remember growing up here and I don’t ever think the crime rate was as bad as it is now,” Tena said. I think that these kids nowadays, instaed of being slapped on the hand like they’re doing, they really need to start punishing more of these kids nowadays.”

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