BROWNSVILLE, Texas (ValleyCentral) — Police say three men responsible for stealing cars across the Rio Grande Valley were caught by an Auto Theft Task Force.

The Auto Theft Task Force was conducting surveillance when they noticed a suspect in the process of stealing a car.

“What was going on is that these individuals are responsible for stealing vehicles from the years of 2014 to 2018,” Martin Sandoval, Public Information Officer Brownsville Police said.

Police say Javier Ortega, Eric Jay Rodriguez, and Victor Pena Cardoza were taken into custody Dec. 28 on various charges relating to the theft of motor vehicles.

According to police, the men would park next to a vehicle they wanted to steal and swap out the vehicle’s computer system with one of their own. 

Police say the suspects were stealing vehicles for years.

They would then turn the vehicle on with a key that was programmed into their computer and take it to Mexico.

Sandoval recommends parking in well lit areas to prevent an auto theft incident.  

“Make sure the doors are locked, push them in to make sure. Once you do that, always make sure that all your valuables are absolutely out of the vehicle that deters criminals from breaking in or even trying to take your vehicle,” he said.

“One of the best things is one of the old time tools that we used to use, called the club, which actually sticks to the steering wheel and the brake pad, that usually deters a lot,” Sandoval said. 

At last night’s city meeting in Brownsville, officials agreed to continue their partnership with other cities in the Valley to bust auto theft rings with the South Texas auto theft enforcement task force. 

The force aims to reduce the number of auto theft and burglary of motor vehicles in South Texas by sharing information regarding trends in auto thefts and burglaries.

“We collect all the stats and everything for the federal government for the state and all that so that cooperation has been tremendous for all around for everyone,” he said. 

Police also use public presentations to educate citizens on how to reduce the chances of being a victim to auto theft.