STAFF WRITER CONNIE SWINNEY
BURNET COUNTY — Three burglary cases involving all-terrain vehicles — one in which the “brazen” suspect drove off the property in broad daylight — prompted the Burnet County Sheriff’s Office to release surveillance images of possible suspects and offer tips to help residents avoid becoming victims.
The latest incident was reported April 6 in the 2400 block of FM 963 during daylight hours at a Burnet County residence where an entry gate remained open.
“It’s people trespassing on property. People are either climbing a fence or walking through an open gate,” said Lt. Howard Stinehour of the Heart of Texas Auto Theft Task Force. “A lot of these properties are hunting leases, or people are coming to them seasonally. They’re storing stuff on there.”
In the most recent reported burglary, a suspect was captured on a game camera stealing a 2012 Kawasaki Teryx 750 4×4 ATV, according to a BCSO report.
“That was daylight hours,” Stinehour said. “He was brazen and just rode down the road with it.”
That suspect is a medium-build black male, who was wearing khaki pants with no shirt and athletic arm sleeves.
Two other separate incidents were reported in late January to mid-February, one of which involved an ATV on unoccupied land off FM 3509 near Williams Drive and another involving a Kawasaki Mule in the 7900 block of FM 2342 north of Texas 29 near Lake Buchanan.
“Keys in all cases were left with them,” Stinehour said. “If they’re visible from the road, and they’re not secure, people are taking advantage of it.”
The average cost of the ATVs is about $10,000. Without state registration requirements, the vehicles have become attractive targets for thieves.
“We don’t know yet if (the incidents are) connected, but they are all in the northern part of Burnet County,” BCSO Capt. Chris Jett said. “(ATVs are) not registered like you would a car, so it’s easy for them to change hands without any kind of title or paperwork.”
Task force investigators said the internet has enabled burglars to easily unload ATVs.
“They’re easy to transfer because of social media, Craigslist, and other (websites). It’s just a bill of sale,” Stinehour said.
Authorities offered the following tips to place a few obstacles in the way of would-be burglars:
• avoid leaving the keys in or with the vehicle;
• park or store ATVs and other equipment out of sight of the main roadway;
• secure gates and fences when not on the property;
• consider purchasing a game camera to capture activity on the property;
• and record the 17-digit vehicle identification number (VIN) to present to authorities in the event of a burglary.
“We can’t enter it into the national database unless we have that VIN number,” Stinehour said. “If a theft occurs, we can pull the photos from those game cameras and post them.”
If you recognize the vehicles or the suspects, call Stinehour at (512) 756-8080. You can also leave a tip with the Hill Country Area Crime Stoppers at 1-866-756-8477 or through its website. All tips are anonymous, and tipsters could be eligible for a cash reward.