The University of Texas Police at Houston (UT Police) wants to make its community aware of two recent “jugging” incidents. Jugging is a term used to describe the practice of surveilling high-end business establishments or banks, then stalking customers and either robbing them or stealing money or other items from their cars when they stop to perform errands somewhere else. The name comes from the nickname for a bank bag.
“It [jugging] happens often around clusters of banks, and especially around the holiday seasons, because thieves know holiday shoppers are carrying cash, credit cards, debit cards and other valuables,” said Covell Johnson, senior inspector, Threat and Criminal Investigations at UT Police.
In two separate jugging incidents reported to UT Police, Johnson said thieves targeted victims after following them to their destination from a bank.
On Sept. 8, 2021, an unknown witness reported to UT Police near the Texas Medical Center (TMC) Parking Garage 7 at 1120 John Freeman Boulevard. UT Police routed the call to TMC Police, who initially responded.
When UT Police interviewed the robbery victim, they found that when he was on his lunch break, he stopped at a bank on the 7000 block of Fannin Street, to withdraw some cash. He recalled seeing three men in an SUV parked very close to his car when he was at the bank.
According to the TMC Police report, the victim returned to the TMC parking garage and sat in his parked vehicle working on his phone when the same three men from the SUV approached his vehicle, one man on each side, and one at the rear, and demanded he exit his vehicle. The criminals robbed the victim of his cash and cell phone.
UT Police determined the criminals targeted and followed the victim in this jugging incident.
In a second jugging incident on Sept. 21, 2021, UT Police responded to a report of burglary of a motor vehicle at UT Housing in the area near the community mailbox.
The victim, a UT Housing resident, reported to UT Police that after a trip to a grocery store and bank on Old Spanish Trail, she was collecting her mail inside the apartment complex. While collecting her mail, the victim recognized a man that she saw from the grocery store parking lot.
Prior to returning home to UT Housing, the victim’s first stop was to a bank to withdraw money from the ATM. Afterwards, she went to a grocery store where she noticed a man acting suspiciously as she was loading her groceries into her vehicle.
The man was pacing back and forth in the grocery store parking lot and that caught her attention. The victim reported she thought he had probably forgotten something. She said that since he was not at a close distance, she ignored him, left the area and headed home to UT Housing.
The victim said she did not pay attention to her surroundings as she drove home and could not confirm if she was followed. However, when she noticed the same man from the grocery store at the mailbox, she walked away from her parked vehicle toward the maintenance warehouse, located across from the mailbox area, and met with an employee who walked with her back to her vehicle.
When the resident returned to her vehicle, she could see her front passenger window broken and her purse missing from the front passenger seat.
UT Police believe that the suspect followed the victim from running errands and gained entry to the apartment complex by providing fraudulent information to the security guard.
UT Police has identified the suspect in this jugging incident and is working with the Houston Police Department’s Jugging Task Force to make an arrest.
On top of typical warnings to be aware and keep cash envelopes and bags out of sight, Johnson recommends anyone leaving banks or ATMs with cash in envelopes or money bags to look out for cars, trucks or SUVs backed into parking spaces with the engine running and someone inside behind tinted windows with no front plates or using paper plates.
“Those are telltale signs of a possible suspect surveilling that bank parking lot,” said Johnson.
If you see any people acting suspiciously or observe suspicious vehicles, contact UT Police immediately at 713-792-2890.
Participate in your safety
- Vary your routine.
- Be aware of your surroundings and the people around you even if you are familiar with the location.
- When pumping gas, drive-through banking or any activity that distracts attention away from the passenger doors, keep windows up and doors locked.
- Always park in well-lit, well-traveled areas and avoid late night stops for things like gas or fast food whenever possible.
- Do not leave valuables in plain view while your engine is off or idled.
- Trust your instincts. If you feel uncomfortable in a place or situation, leave right away.
- If you see any suspicious persons or vehicles, contact UT Police immediately at 713-792-2890.