Thieves eyeing Houston-area truck drivers' tailgates

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It costs $5,000 to replace a stolen tailgate. But what's more frustrating is how easily it can be prevented (KTRK)

Thieves continue to target pickup truck tailgates throughout the greater Houston area.

"Most pickup trucks on the road without a tailgate have probably been heisted. It's just that easy," explained Robert Mills of Tommy Vaughn Ford. Mills and his body shop staff say that hardly a week goes by without at least one person rolling onto the dealership lot without a tailgate.

New pickup truck tailgates can cost upwards of $6,000 depending on the make and model of the truck. Many new tailgates feature LED lights, a rear camera, and an electronic locking system. But those features come with a price, one that criminals are eager cash in on.

In recent months the most popular tailgates for thieves were Ford F250 and F350 models. But it's the newest trucks on the road that thieves are after. New pickup truck tailgates can cost upwards of $6,000, and sell for almost the same amount on sites like Craigslist and Ebay. Many new tailgates feature LED lights, a rear camera, and an electronic locking systems.

One might think that such a high-tech auto part would be more secure. They're not. As the body shop staff at Tommy Vaughn Ford showed KTRK, a tailgate can be removed in under 30 seconds by using a screwdriver and exercising a little heavy lifting.

"Having anything taken from you; it's a feeling you can't really explain. You feel violated," said Preston Hall, who had his tailgate stolen last year.

"Fortuneately, I had insurance, but I was still out of pocket $500 after insurance paid the rest. And $500 is a lot of money, period," Hall said.

Hall isn't alone. According to a 2013 report by the National Insurance Crime Burea (NICB) , Texas tops the charts in tailgate thefts nationwide, with Dallas, San Antonio, and Houston reporting more thefts than all other cities across the country. Officials suspect thousands more thefts go unreported.
"If you don't lock your tailgate you can expect it to be stolen," said Samuel Morris, an NICB special investigator. "It boils down to common sense."

Morris advises truck owners to invest in an after-market anti-theft device. While prices vary, Morris says having one installed is worth every penny. And he said there is another cheap option.

"I've used a hose clamp which is less than three dollars at just about any auto or hardware store," Morris said.

Truck owners can also park with their tailgates facing a wall or garage door so that thieves can't access them.

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