Officials want to solve the mysteries of submerged vehicles in Houston's bayous

HOUSTON (KTRK) -- It's not every day you see floating barges, or cranes, or big yellow air-lifts on Brays Bayou. People who live nearby stopped to see this complicated operation up close.

"When I found out they were pulling out cars, that really amazed me," said Frederick Jackson.

The first car pulled from the Bayou Wednesday was an '87 Buick Regal that Houston police say was reported stolen in 1998. The second, we're told, was a Hyundai Excel likely around a 1985. HPD says it'll be listed as unidentifiable.

"We believe most of these are going to be stolen vehicles that were joyridden and dumped in the bayou," says HPD Assistant Chief Mark Curran.

The Submerged Vehicle Removal Pilot Project is a joint effort between Houston and Harris County. Precinct Two Commissioner Jack Morman are footing the bill.

"It's just going to be an ongoing effort until we run out of money. This first effort, we've got $49,500," says Mike Talbott with the Harris County Flood Control District. "The way the funding is set up in the contract, it's kind of a menu of items. There's a flat rate for a car, and then there's a level of difficulty that are added on to that."

Once they're out of the water, Houston police are on hand to check for any clues to where the cars came from.

"I was wondering if there were any dead bodies in the car," said Frederick Jackson.

"Every car has its own story. It's a unique story why it's in the bayou. How did it get there? Is there anyone in it?" says Houston City Councilman Michael Kubosh.

Councilman Kubosh says he wonders what clues to crimes committed all over the Houston Metro area are buried with these cars.

"We can't have these people putting their cars in our bayous. It pollutes our water stream. It slows down the flow of water stream during flooding, and it can be a criminal element. And we have to protect our citizens to keep people from having easy access to hide their crimes."

The city has already set aside $250,000 to get more out. Councilman Kubosh says it's up to the county to put up the matching funds to put a serious dent in the number of cars and possible hidden crimes lurking under the surface.
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