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BURNET — With the holidays in full swing, people are out shopping and visiting friends, but they aren’t alone. There’s another group of people out and about hoping drivers will do the one thing that makes their “job” so much easier: leave their car doors unlocked.

“It’s probably the biggest factor in car thefts and people taking things out of cars,” said Capt. Joey Canady, commander of the Heart of Texas Auto Theft Task Force. He said if people took that one simple step as well as hiding valuables or gifts, it could substantially cut down on the number of vehicle thefts and burglaries.

Law enforcement officials said there are some things people can do to help prevent thefts.

Burnet County Sheriff’s Office investigator Stephen Savoy added that many car thefts and burglaries are crimes of opportunities. If a would-be thief finds a open car door, it’s an easy mark, the investigator said.

“Locking your doors and taking your keys are two of the best ways to stop this,” he said.

According to officials, a vehicle is stolen every eight minutes in Texas while another one is burglarized every two minutes.

Canady added that the Christmas holidays usually bring an increase in both activities.

During the holiday rush, a person walking through a department store or a shopping center parking lot trying to get into a vehicle won’t draw much attention, Canady said. So it’s up to the vehicle owner to help prevent thefts.

Canady recounted a TV commercial produced to cut down on car thefts that showed a man walking through a parking lot trying out car doors. As the would-be thief tried door handles, he was repeating, “She loves me, she loves me not,” when a door was locked. The moment he came upon a door that wasn’t locked, the man smiled and said, “She loves me.”

Cars and vehicles provide a source of fast cash for would-be thieves, Savoy said.

Canady agreed.

“They grab something, turn it into quick cash or even give it as present,” he said. “Sometimes, they’ll steal a new car or fairly new car and sell it for $300 or $400 just so they can get the cash.”

The “key” both men said was not to leave keys in the car, lock the doors and hide any valuables.