It's one of the biggest problems in Austin. In fact, there are so many car burglaries that officers can't respond to them. For the most part, crime scene technicians process the scene. But APD recently caught one serial car burglar who targeted cars at area parks.
Austin police say Mayfield Park and Preserve in West Austin is one of the areas serial car burglar, Joe Harros, has hit. They say he has been arrested several times for breaking into cars and stealing whatever he can.
The latest arrest stemmed from an incident at Mayfield on February 16. Police say just before 10 a.m., he stole a purse out of a car
Officers recognized the car description from a witness as Harros' and his method of operation. Lt Todd Smith says his officers quickly knew who they were looking for.
"Our team got together and said lets go check the parks he typically likes to burglarize and one of our officers located the suspect's vehicle at 3755 South Capital of Texas," Smith said.
Officers set up a sting at that Green Belt entrance and eventually caught Harros in the act.
"They watched him use a slingshot to break into another car there," Smith said.
Lt. Smith explains his method of operation.
"He'll just park right here, read his paper, roll down his windows and when he sees whoever pulls up disappears, out comes the sling shot, breaks the window, continues to read the paper in case he draws attention and so he'll be here for a long time and then he'll get out and walk around, peak into cars, grab what he wants, get back in his car and off he goes."
Broken glass on the ground shows this parking area is also a common target for car burglaries.
"There's a backpack here and a purse of some sort in plain view," he said.
A quick check of the parking lot at Mayfield Park turned up several potential victims. One of the easiest ways to prevent car burglaries is to lock, take, and hide.
"Our citizens make it too simple for them. I saw valuables in the only three cars in the parking lot."
Chief Art Acevedo even recognized the officers for their work in catching Harros. Good old fashion police work that wouldn't have been possible without the specialized patrol unit. Because sector patrol officers are too busy responding call to call.
Police say Harros could be connected to other car burglaries. They say he has been arrested six times in ten years for this same kind of crime. They say he has even done time in prison.