Car theft isn’t just about thieves locating specific vehicles and stealing them; it is often a crime of opportunity. There was a video making its way around social media recently that showed a group of what appeared to be teenagers and young adults walking through a neighborhood trying the door of the cars parked on the street. They eventually found a Jeep that was open and they ransacked it. Even if your own car is not on any of the lists for most stolen vehicles, you could still be a victim of car theft. Here’s how you can protect yourself.
Lock your doors and take your keys with you – every single time.
This may seem like a no brainer, but about a quarter of cars that are stolen were unlocked and many had the key inside the vehicle. If you are tempted to leave your car unlocked, or worse, leave it running, while you run in to buy a soda or pick up something at your friend’s house, don’t. It only takes a moment for a thief to seize the opportunity and you could find yourself vehicleless.
Don’t leave anything out in plain view that would attract a thief – even if it is worthless.
If poor housekeeping extends to your car, clean it up. Empty shopping bags or boxes may lead a thief to believe that you have something of value in your vehicle. It is wise to take your electronics with you when you get out of your car, and stash any chargers or other evidence of valuables. You should even put the plug back in your cigarette lighter.
Get a car alarm – and respond every time it goes off.
If you are offered a factory option alarm system when you purchase your car, get it. Those are typically the best. The noise is sometimes enough to scare off thieves that are less experienced. If you go for an aftermarket system, make sure it is properly installed and calibrated. Check your car each time the alarm goes off – and move it. Car thieves are known to “test” the response time and probability of owners with alarm systems. They will bump the car then wait to see how long it takes you to respond – and they keep doing it until you don’t respond anymore (that is why you move the vehicle). Then they strike.
FYI, burglars do a similar thing with home alarms.
Do your stashing before you park – not in the parking lot when you arrive.
A thief lurking in a parking lot (as many thieves are known to do) will take great interest in your efforts to stash your valuables as you sit in the parking lot. Don’t give them a show. Put your things away before you park and make sure that everything is out of sight.
Don’t rely on just one line of defense – layer up.
Car alarms are fine, but they aren’t likely to deter more experienced thieves. Don’t make it easy for them. Use several types of anti-theft devices in tandem to achieve the most effective protection. Immobilizers, wheel etching, car alarm, and a tracking system like LoJack. None of these alone is a foolproof anti-theft device, but when you layer your defenses you improve your chances of deterring thieves and break-ins.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) also offers a list of anti-car theft tips on their website.
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