Good News, Bad News about Car Theft

September 4, 2019

Here are 10 tips to keep you from being victim to increasingly clever car thieves.

The good news about car theft is that the stats say it’s going down. The bad news is that car thieves are ingenious, always devising new ways to break into your car — and steal it. Their tactics include acquiring smart keys, which eliminates hot-wiring to steal cars; switching vehicle identification numbers; and using stolen identities to secure loans for expensive vehicles.

And even if they don’t steal your car, they may steal your contents. In fact, they are more likely to steal your stuff. Most car-related crime is smash and grab and not stealing the car itself.

Nevertheless, from 2016 to 2018, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB), 209 vehicles per day were stolen. The top five states with the most thefts with keys or fobs left in the vehicle during this period were California (31,185), Florida (17,300), Texas (15,511), Ohio (12,596) and Nevada (11,391).

Here are some tips to help you prevent car theft:

1   Lock Your Doors. It’s the obvious first step, but we often overlook it, especially if we only expect to leave the car for a few minutes. Just make it a habit and you’ll always remember.

2   Remove Your Keys from the Vehicle. Like leaving your doors unlocked because you’re nearby or don’t think you’ll be away for long, it’s a bad idea to leave your keys in the car. Don’t leave your car running either.

There were 229,339 vehicle thefts with keys or fobs left in the vehicles between January 1, 2016 and December 31, 2018. According to the NICB, this represents a 56 percent increase in vehicle thefts with keys or fobs in the vehicle from the 147,434 vehicles stolen in this manner between January 1, 2013 and December 31, 2015.

3   Don’t Hide a Spare Key Near Your Vehicle. Always take your keys with you when you leave your car. You might think it’s a good idea to keep a spare key under the car or in the glove box, in case you lose it — but thieves know where to check for an extra key. While getting locked out of your car is a pain, think about the potential hassle of your car getting stolen.

4   Close the Windows. Keep your windows closed completely, says the NICB. A thief can just reach into your car through an open window — taking what they can reach or unlocking the door.

5   Park in Well-Lit Areas. Avoid parking in poorly lit areas or remote places not easily seen by passers-by. Look for parking under a light and in well-trafficked areas. Thieves are less likely to poach vehicles in places where they can easily be seen.

6   Install an Audible Alarm System and Anti-Theft Device. Install an audible alarm system, if your car didn’t come with one. Make sure a window sticker or other visible sign tips thieves off that your car may be armed with an alarm. This alone can be very effective. If someone does try to enter your car while the alarm is on, an audible alarm will make a loud noise, often the car’s horn.

7   Install a Vehicle Immobilizer System. Thieves can bypass your ignition by “hotwiring” your car, but you can help prevent this by using a vehicle immobilizer system. According to the NICB, immobilizer systems may incorporate smart keys, kill switches and wireless ignition authentication. They’ll essentially disable the vehicle making it impossible to move.

8   Install a Tracking System. You may want to install a vehicle recovery or tracking system. If your car is stolen, the tracking system will use wireless and/or GPS technology to emit a signal to the police or a monitoring service of your vehicle’s location.

9   Don’t Leave Valuables in Your Car. Even if they don’t steal your car, thieves may see a purse or other valuables sitting in your car and break in and take them. If you need to keep valuables in your car, keep them out of sight. And if you put them in the trunk, do it before you get to your destination. Thieves will sometimes scope out parking lots looking for people putting things in their trunks before leaving their vehicles.

According to the website MetaFilter, you should never leave anything in your car, ever. “No charging cords, no clothing, no bags that look like they have something inside, no AUX cords, no accessories, no knick-knacks, nothing at all, not even a single coin.

10 Be Alert. Be aware of your surroundings. Don’t park where you see people loitering about or you just don’t feel it’s safe. Find another spot.

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