HOUSTON, Texas - In recent years, area law enforcement has issued routine warnings about leaving valuables in cars, even if the vehicles are locked and even if the driver makes a quick trip to a store. It especially applies to those who've just returned from banks.
The public is warned about jugging, which is the term for theft by thieves who follow people when they leave banks. Sometimes lookouts are posted to identify who made a withdrawal and is carrying cash.
Alex Belandres got the warning too late. On Friday the 13th, he withdrew $7,200 from the bank a few blocks from his Spring Branch business office on Mangum Road.
"I locked the truck and took my coffee inside. When I came out a couple of minutes later, I saw my passenger window was gone," Belandres said.
A surveillance camera outside his building saw what happened moments after Belandres walked inside. It showed a dark-colored Tundra truck slowly enter the parking lot. It pulled up behind his truck. Seconds later, a man got out of the back seat and crouched as he walked to Belandres' vehicle.
What appeared to be a bolt action device was used to shatter the glass. He grabbed an envelope and returned to the truck.
"I don't know how he did it so fast," Belandres said.
But it wasn't over yet. The truck slowly backed up and was about to turn onto the street when it returned to the same spot. Apparently, the thief and the accomplices realized that there was more to take. Moments later, a black bag was pulled from Belandres' truck.
"My whole life was in there," he said. "The rest of the cash, my credit cards, my passport, medicine and my 9 mm pistol," he said. "There was some jewelry too."
The truck was dark-colored and had paper plates, which law enforcement views as difficult to trace. Belandres still hopes someone will see the video and recognize the truck -
and the thief. He has reported the break-in to Houston police.
He hopes at least his paperwork and documents will be recovered. He has a scheduled trip to the Philippines in coming days and needs his passport.
"I learned a lesson, but it cost me a lot," Belandres said. "Never leave anything in your car, even if it's locked. There are people out there watching you."
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