Technology has helped to change auto theft in significant ways. Engine immobilizers, audible alarms and vehicle recovery systems have made cars harder to steal and easier to recover. Today’s thefts are often the product of opportunity, with would-be thieves looking for unsuspecting drivers who leave their cars unattended.
While motor vehicle theft rates have declined 42% over the past decade,1 a car is still stolen every 44 seconds in the United States.² Between 40-50% of thefts are due to driver error,³ including doors that are left unlocked or keys that are left in plain sight.
In order to help protect your vehicle from a crime of opportunity, you need to take some preliminary steps to slow down any potential thieves. Try to avoid parking in places where a thief will have time to bypass the ignition system. And even if you are running a quick errand, always lock and set the alarm on your car. Be sure to bring inviting items, including your keys, phone, GPS, laptop, and wallet with you, or stow them out of sight.
Safety specialist Chris Hayes and our Special Investigations Unit offered these additional tips to help prevent your vehicle from becoming a target.
Stow Valuables Before You Park
Many thieves watch parking lots looking for people who leave valuables in their cars. Stow valuables out of sight before you park so not to attract the attention of thieves.
Park in Plain Sight
Always remember to park your car in a safe and visible location. Thieves will act even in broad daylight if they can find cover. Look for well-lit areas and open, unblocked spaces when you park.
Do Not Leave Your Vehicle Unattended While Running
Even if you are just making a brief stop, always take your keys with you. Thieves tend to frequent convenience store parking lots and gas stations, where people may leave their cars running and keys in the ignition. During cold weather, it might be tempting to let your vehicle idle to warm up. This makes an inviting target for car thieves.
Hide All Electronic Cords
Avoid unintentional visual tips for thieves, which include leaving chargers for phones and gadgets as well as holsters for navigational equipment in plain sight.
Take Precautions and Make Tracing Your Car Easier
When leaving your car, lock all doors, roll up the windows and remove the keys. If you have one, activate the alarm and set the parking brake. Install wheel locks to prevent theft of wheels and tires. Consider an after-market steering wheel/brake lock if you are in a high-crime area. Having your vehicle’s VIN etched on all windows can also help deter thieves.
If You Believe Your Car was Stolen:
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1 U.S. Department of Justice—Federal Bureau of Investigation, http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/ucr/crime-in-the-u.s/2012/crime-in-the-u.s.-2012/property-crime/motor-vehicle-theft/mvtheftmain.pdf
3 National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, www.nhtsa.gov/staticfiles/communications/pdf/VehicleTheftPrevention.pdf