Has this ever happened to you? You’re ready to leave, grab your things, lock your house, and go to your car. It’s GONE! Someone stole it! Panic, frustration, rage, fear, helplessness all crash into your brain at one time. What did you do wrong? Why did this happen to you?
Unfortunately, it seems that in the United States, a vehicle is stolen approximately every 30 seconds. That’s 120 cars an hour or 2,880 cars in a single day. Not a comforting statistic. Recovery statistics are just as bleak. Around 50% recovered successfully. What does recovered successfully mean? No major damage to the vehicle when it’s found. Unsuccessfully recovered means the police found your car, but it’s been stripped and basically is nothing but a shell.
It is completely up to the vehicle owner to take steps to prevent auto theft. There is a wide range of products to help prevent car theft, with just as wide a range of cost. However, as an owner, there are steps, some simple and some complex, that you can take to help keep you from being part of the above statistics. Let’s start with simple steps.
Lock Your Car! The most basic step of all, and yet people don’t do this. Lock it when you leave it, and lock the doors when you are in the car. Your door doesn’t easily open when it’s locked. A carjacker can’t open the door and pull you out if the door is locked.
Keep your spare key somewhere other than hidden in your car. There are only so many places you could hide that spare key, and the thieves know them all.
Never, ever, leave your car running without you in it, even if you lock those doors. An unattended, running car is an engraved invitation to a car thief. You think you will only leave the vehicle alone for a few minutes. Right. In 2 minutes, 4 cars are stolen.
Be as choosy as you can when you park your car. Well, lighted areas are always the best. Turn your wheels toward the curb on the street or to the side in parking lots and driveways. Sure, you’ll have to spend a few more moments to straighten the wheel when you leave, but it’s worth the time if you still have your car. Suppose you have rear-wheel drive, back into your driveway, front-wheel drive, head-in parking. This will reduce the chance of your car being towed while stolen (yes, the thieves use tow trucks! )
If you are parking in an attended lot, you might be a little safer, but to safeguard yourself, only give the door/ignition key to the attendant. Whenever possible, make sure your door/ignition key and the trunk key are different. At the very least, you’ll know that the person you gave your keys to won’t be able to get into your trunk.
Close all your windows. Hot days make this a terrible option, but really, an open window is another invitation, and I’d rather have a hot interior in my car than not have my car. Most cars have air conditioning, and if not, you can open the windows while driving.
Do not keep the title or registration documents in your car. Thieves can use these to sell your car after it’s stolen! Carry the documents with you on your person (purse, wallet, etc. )
If you have removable faceplates for your stereo equipment, remove them when you leave the vehicle! If you can’t carry it, lock it in the trunk.
Please don’t leave valuables in your car where everyone can see them. Even if all you have is a small blanket to cover up your shopping bags, if a thief can’t see what’s in your car, he might not be tempted.
If you have a garage, use it. Lock not only your car but your garage as well. A car thief may know a burglar and pass along the info that you don’t lock your garage.
Lastly, get educated about vehicle theft prevention products. There are many different products to choose from alarms to kill switches to the simple “Club” device. Some states participate in a national voluntary motor vehicle theft prevention program called “The Watch Your Car Program.” Check with your local law enforcement department.
Yes, thieves will figure out how to bypass many theft prevention devices, but most of them will pass up a “protected” vehicle for an unprotected one. Don’t make the thief’s attempt easy.