To combat auto theft in East Texas, a local task force etched VIN numbers on cars Friday. The East Texas Auto Task Force hosted the free event in Bullard.

"Etching the glass on a vehicle is a great way to deter a professional car thief that is looking for vehicles to steal and strip for parts," said Gary King, detective for Tyler Police Department and also part of the Auto Theft Task Force.

He says etching a VIN number will make stolen parts unsalable.

"They're looking for vehicles they know they can disassemble," he said.

Over the years, the force has etched thousands of vehicles in East Texas.

"It doesn't deter from the look of the vehicle at all. Most of us don't realize it's been put on the vehicle at all," King said.

Multiple East Texas law agencies came together at All State in Bullard, etching VIN numbers one window at a time for dozens in the area.

"You know, with crime rates the way they are, I think it's a good deterrent for the thieves from getting it," said Melody Self, who took her personal car and her daughter's for safety measures.

King said Texas ranks second in the country for auto theft, behind California.

"What's popular for us as citizens is what's going to be popular for the thieves and here in Texas, we like our trucks," he said.

In Texas, the Ford F-150 is the most stolen, followed by anything Chevrolet and third, Dodge.

While auto theft is decreasing in East Texas, online auto theft is up.

King said he's recovered eight stolen vehicles in Tyler in the last year, and all of them were online purchases.

"Now we have citizens in Tyler who have paid large amounts for a vehicle and they don't know who they bought it from," King said. "Just some guy in a parking lot."

While he did not have an explanation for the rise in online auto theft, he said people are buying things online more often, and thieves are catching on.

According to a May 22 press release from the Tyler Police Department, in some cases of online auto theft in the city, VIN’s were changed to make the vehicles appear to be legitimate.

In most cases, the VIN’s were not changed, and the seller presented a title that was changed to make it appear it belonged to the vehicle being sold.

King said if someone is selling a vehicle for much less than its value, that's a red flag. Secondly, do some research and know the value of the vehicle you are trying to purchase.

Another VIN etching event will be held on June 30 at the Chamber of Commerce building in Henderson from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

If you are unable to make it, call the East Texas Auto Task Force at 903-593-6090.