If you reported an Auto Theft, please understand that the report entry and transfer process takes up to two days upload from the field to the Auto Theft queue where we can assign it. It may take longer if it is unusually busy, or detectives are temporarily reassigned to respond to a significant event.
However, your vehicle's license plate and VIN were immediately entered into our department's citywide stolen vehicle list, as well as a state and nationwide stolen vehicle database even before a report was written. If any police officer identifies your vehicle, or checks the license plate listed in the databases, they will be notified your vehicle is stolen and will attempt to recover it.
As is often the case, your vehicle may be recovered quickly. Perhaps before the report is assigned. Our unit is still notified of the recovery and we attempt to call the number provided by the person who reported it stolen to make notification. Please make sure that phone is operational and that phone's voicemail system is able to receive messages from a detective in case you do not answer. When your vehicle is recovered, you will be notified of where your vehicle was impounded, and if recovered in Austin, the fees that may be associated with its impound.
Once your case is assigned, it will be investigated in the order in which it is received, exclusive of a need to pick up time-sensitive evidence, or when a post-arrest interview may be necessary. Our unit receives about 250 new cases per month, and we know the most important thing is that your vehicle is found and returned to you. We appreciate your patience, and your case is important to us. Please know the most important tool is already working for you the police, and that is the state and nationwide stolen vehicle database. This tool works on your behalf 24 hours per day, 7 days per week, until your vehicle is found.
The unfortunate reality is, in most auto theft cases, there is initially little, or no evidence by which an investigation may begin.
People often inquire about the existence of video. If video exists, detectives work to view and retrieve it quickly. This can be a challenge when business employees don't have access to the video equipment, or video is stored off-site. Businesses do not always respond in a timely manner and we sometimes learn the video was recorded over, erased, or was it not recording.
Surveillance video may show the offense, or that another vehicle was involved, but it is often of poor quality, at extreme angle, blocked by obstacles, or installed at too great a distance to read a license plate or to specifically identify a suspect. Most video systems are not installed to capture such details, just overall activities on site. Video generally cannot positively identify a suspect or other vehicles without a witness with specific knowledge. Witnesses with specific knowledge are rare, but responding officers do attempt to identify any on scene. Video evidence can be helpful later to compare with a person arrested driving your stolen vehicle.
Fingerprints are difficult to lift inside vehicles because of the texture or design of most interior surfaces. Fingerprints found on the outside of a vehicle will not provide conclusive evidence, but recovering officers still look for fingerprints inside and out. If fingerprints are lifted, the current wait for results is 12-18 months. This is due to the volume of cases already waiting for the Latent Print Division to examine. Due to the backlog of DNA evidence waiting for the Forensic lab to examine, DNA testing is not available for Auto Theft offenses at this time.