Corpus Christi Police Chief Troy Riggs is encouraging all residents to be more vigilant when it comes to the protection of their vehicles and property.

With more than 40 percent of auto burglaries occurring in the Corpus Christi area because of owners leaving their vehicles unlocked, residents should take a "target hardening" approach to secure their vehicles and the contents therein, Riggs said.

"Auto thefts and auto burglaries are both down, but the bad news is they are still way too high for this community," Riggs said.

He said fighting crime is everyone's responsibility. The goal of the department was to increase auto burglary arrests. As of last year, Riggs said, the department had seen a 21 percent increase in auto burglary arrests.

"If you had your car stolen, there is a 34 percent chance you either left your keys in the vehicle, or you left your keys somewhere where people could get to easily. Between 40 to 65 percent of auto burglaries occur because owners leave their vehicle unlocked," Riggs said.

In order to aid in the investigative effort, Riggs has approved the hiring of six part time forensic collection employees, who will process auto burglaries and thefts. Riggs said sending those individuals out to collect useable fingerprints and palm prints will help to drive crime figures further down.

Auto Theft Taskforce Lt. Lauren White said compared to the first five months of 2010, auto burglaries are down by 13 percent, and auto thefts are down by nine percent for that same time period. In auto thefts, 38 percent of the incidences occurred when keys were left in the vehicle or easily accessible. White said residents could take steps to ensure that cars are locked when unattended, and that their vehicle's keys are placed in a secure location.

"Obviously it won't always be the case, but if they can help us, in this case reduce their chances of being a victim, then we can ensure that Corpus Christi will be a safe place to live," White said.

Paula Olivares, grant administrator for the Auto Theft Taskforce and the public awareness coordinator assisted in helping to organize an auto theft and auto burglary prevention meeting for apartment complexes that took place on Wednesday at the Del Mar Center for Economic Development. Complex owners and managers disseminated that information to their tenants.

Riggs said in a recent CCPD survey, 15 percent of the respondents said they had previously been a victim to a crime, but failed to report it to authorities.

"We need to know about crime. We cannot begin the process of fixing a problem if we don't know about it. We're asking citizens to get involved, give us a call and report crime whenever it occurs,' Riggs said.

CCPD officials also listed the top 10 stolen vehicles for the Corpus Christi area. The list includes the Ford F-150, the Chevy Silverado, the Ford F-250, the Dodge Ram Truck, Ford Explorer, Dodge Stratus, Honda Civic, Chevy C1500, Chevy Impala and the Ford Ranger.

As part of the Auto Burglary Theft and Prevention Authority, the CCPD has a program where if a resident has one of the top 10 listed stolen vehicles, they can receive a free club as another preventative measure to keep their vehicle safe. All they have to do is bring in a copy of their insurance card to show that the vehicle is theirs and insured, and the department will give them a free club, White said.

CCPD also provides VIN etching on every window of a vehicle. That not only allows the officer stopping the vehicle to easily see the VIN number, it also makes it harder for the thief to strip and sell all of the vehicle parts.