'Jugging' reports on the rise in Houston area

HOUSTON (KTRK) -- The Houston Police Department is teaming up with the Harris County District Attorney's office to crack down on a crime called "bank jugging."

While you may not be familiar with the term, you've most likely heard about the crime. "Jugging" involves a criminal staking out a bank parking lot, waiting for a customer to pick up cash then following them to their home or office and stealing from them.

The term "jugging" has been around for more than a century.

"Apparently certain types of money, currency, maybe gold, were carried in a jug in stage coaches," Lt. J.R. Chase said.

These days, "jugging" has evolved. Music videos on YouTube reference the crime.

Daisy Guzman is a victim of jugging. In January, she picked up money at the bank, made a stop at CVS and walked into her workplace in the Heights. A man stole her purse.

"He reached into his pocket," Guzman said, "I didn't know if he had a gun, so I just let go of the purse."

About 160 people have been arrested for crimes connected to jugging in the last year in Houston. Police and prosecutors talked about this growing problem and they are determined to crack down on the criminals.

"This is not a normal property crime. It has a beginning that starts with somebody looking at a person," Lt. Chase said, "And we want greater consideration for high-bond charges and high penalties when it comes time to dealing with the case."

Officers explained to prosecutors that a lot of effort goes into investigating jugging cases, and they think these criminals should face higher penalties.

"These cases on their face when they come to court look like relatively minor property crimes many times," Harris County Assistant District Attorney Bill Exley said. "And the reality is, there's much more criminal activity involved in them."

As a result of this conversation, prosecutors are on the lookout for potential jugging cases. Guzman is glad the awareness is growing.

"It's great, they would understand from the victim's perspective as well," Guzman said. "And it's just good training overall."

Police have a message for all the juggers out there.

"When we catch you," Lt. Chase said. "We're doing everything we can to make sure you stay in jail for as long as we can put you there."

Chase said to avoid becoming a victim, change your routine. Don't visit the bank on the same day every week if you can help it, and look out for suspicious vehicles sitting in the parking lot.
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