Even with advancements in anti-theft technology, auto theft continues to be a significant problem. According to the Insurance Information Institute (III), 721,053 automobiles were stolen in the US in 2012 – approximately one vehicle theft every 44 seconds.
National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) statistics show a slight decrease to 708,909 vehicle thefts in 2013, but that is far too many to accept. Some of us pay a terrible price in losing our cars and any possessions and identity information left inside, but we all pay a price in higher insurance rates to cover the losses.
How can you prevent this from happening to you? You cannot entirely, because no method or combination of methods is foolproof. However, you can take steps to reduce your risk greatly of becoming an auto theft victim.
Auto thefts can generally be broken down into three categories: crimes of pure opportunity, crimes that offer tempting targets and crimes that target specific automobile models.
- Crimes of Opportunity – According to III, between 40-50% of auto theft can be attributed to driver error. Failure to use common sense makes a thief’s job easier.
Careless actions like leaving your keys in the car – or worse, leaving your car unattended and running while you warm it up on a cold morning or duck into the convenience store for “just a minute” – is asking to have your car stolen. Even a novice thief can steal your car in less than “just a minute” under those circumstances.
Locking the doors is another obvious, yet overlooked, method of deterring simple theft – and without rolling up the windows, locked doors do not present much of a challenge.
- Tempting Targets – Do you leave your Christmas shopping packages in plain view on the passenger seat? If so, you have given a thief a great Christmas present.
If possible, do not leave any tempting targets like purses, packages, backpacks, or computer cases inside your car. Hide them if you must, but remember that experienced thieves can spot typical hiding places.
Remember that thieves will be watching mall lots at the holidays for anyone who loads up the trunk and heads back in for more purchases. Your packages may not be in plain sight anymore, but that does not matter.
Your parking spot can be a greater temptation to thieves. Poor lighting and unguarded areas give thieves a greater window in which to operate. Garages with security are optimal, if one is available.
- Specific Models – Older cars tend to be stolen frequently because their parts have greater resale value based on either short supply or high demand – and they are generally easier to break into because they lack newer built-in security measures.
You can check the NICB website to see if your make and model is on the list of most frequently stolen cars, but even if it is not, thieves in a particular area may find your model of car more attractive.
In this case, thieves will be more persistent and layers of security are your best answer. Steering wheel locks and car alarms help, but people are increasingly ignoring traditional car alarms, and steering wheel locks can be defeated.
Strangely enough, while a protection decal may deter novices, it could actually assist experienced thieves by identifying the type of system they must defeat. It is best to keep them guessing. For example, car alarms can be made to alert you silently (via phone or text) instead of tipping off the thief that you are aware of the breach. Kill switches can be installed in places that are difficult to reach. Services like OnStar can remotely kill the engine in case of theft.
Ask your insurance agent about discounts that may be available with installation of certain anti-theft systems. They may even have security system suggestions upfront, based on knowledge of your market and theft data from your area.
You may not be able to prevent car theft completely, but you can reduce the odds and make it more likely that any theft attempt will be thwarted. Between that peace of mind and the improved insurance rates, a review of your auto security can pay great dividends.