Nederland car break-ins prompt public outcry

Nederland Police Chief Darrell Bush

A series of car break-ins in Nederland and Port Neches over the last several months have prompted action from some of the residents.

After several posts about the thefts in Facebook groups like All Things Nederland and Crime Watch in Mid County, Nederland resident Mickel Alvarez replied to a thread Jan. 31 calling for the formation of a Neighborhood Watch group.

“Everyone needs to wake up. This is the world we live in now. Instead of everyone just complaining about it, let’s do something. I bet I’m the only one who has been out driving the neighborhood in the middle of the night looking for thieves,” he wrote. “We all need to get up and act, or it’s just gonna get worse.”

In his post, Alvarez also asked for more police patrols and encouraged his neighbors to ensure that “there is nothing for them to [steal].”

“Honestly, it’s just been getting out of hand,” he said in an interview with The Examiner. “We’ve had it happen a couple times on our street alone.”

He and his wife live in the neighborhood between Nederland Avenue and Avenue H.

“I saw one guy, and when I tried to confront them, they denied it and denied it and then threatened to sue me for slander even though I caught him red-handed,” he said. “The cops let him go. I feel like part of this is the cops’ fault because they’re not doing anything, they’re just letting people get away with it. They’re not patrolling enough.”

Alvarez said another man was trying to open car doors along his street around 6:30 a.m. one morning when he was loading his truck for a fishing trip in August 2016. His two dogs barked, alerting him to the man’s presence.

His wife watched the man continue down the street from their front window.

Although 34 auto burglaries have been reported in Nederland since Dec. 1, 2016, according to police reports, Alvarez says rumors have been circulating since July 2016.

“I’m thinking about starting up a legit Neighborhood Watch with people going out looking around,” he said. “Last couple of days, I’ve actually gone out driving the neighborhood, just going up and looking around.”

He and his wife asked Entergy to install a new light fixture on the telephone pole outside their house. They lock their cars every night and plan to install a house alarm and set of security cameras soon.

Car burglaries are also often reported to insurance companies like Farmer’s Insurance, said customer service representative Diana Mendez, who works at the Nederland office.

She said she has taken two claims recently related to auto-related thefts. Two weeks ago, a customer filed a claim with her about a car burglary.

“Busted windows. It was their stereo system; that’s what they were after,” she said. “It looks like they were trying to pry the system out,” although the thieves did not succeed.

Last week, a senior lady and long-term Nederland resident reported that her motorcycle trailer and lawnmowers for her husband’s lawn care business were stolen. One of the lawnmowers had a $4,000 value, Mendez said.

Some people may not file a claim if the damage is under the deductible, so some thefts go unreported, according to Mendez.

“People are affected by these petty thefts.”

Thieves tried to pry open her own car with a crowbar during the night, she said. Mendez is a single mom who has lived in the neighborhood on Avenue H closer to Port Neches for the last 15 years.

“The crimes seem to be more and more and more,” Mendez said. “Just recently, it was the crowbar and the lights for Christmas. I’ve had ladders stolen, lawnmowers from the backyard, and I have an 8-foot privacy fence.”

“It seems like they know … how many cars are in a home, who lives there, and we go out of town – I go to Houston or whatever – and when I come back, something is stolen.”

Nederland police are aware of the problem and are gathering information to track a pattern, Nederland Police Chief Darrell Bush said in an interview with The Examiner.

“Most of the car burglaries we’re having now are unlocked vehicles,” Bush said. “They just get out in the neighborhood and walk driveway to driveway to driveway and pull on car handles, and if they get one not locked, well, they’ll go into it and rifle through it and see what they can find.

“A lot of them are not taking anything out of them because there’s nothing in there.”

When the thieves do find something, often cellphones, laptops and cash or purses are reported stolen, according to Bush, and most of these crimes are “narcotics driven.”

“It’s usually the same group of people that are doing it,” he said. “You can usually tell that by their MO and what they do. They’re not forcibly breaking glass. We still have a few of those, but not many.”

Bush believes the perpetrators are probably from mid or south county and not gang-affiliated.

Port Neches has also experienced “a rash” of car burglaries recently, Bush said. Port Neches Police Department secretary Theresa Beavens reported one vehicle burglary Jan. 10.

Bush recommends that Mid-County residents lock their vehicles and either remove valuables or lock them in the trunk.

“The best prevention you have to nighttime crime is adequate lighting and make sure you lock your vehicles,” he said. “Most of what we’re having is not occurring at businesses; it’s occurring at homes at night.”

Anyone with information about these crimes is asked to contact their local police station or Southeast Texas Crime Stoppers by calling (409) 833-TIPS (8477) or downloading the new app, P3 TIPS.