Can you learn anything from a car thief about security? Absolutely. Who could possibly be better to enlighten you about methods that deter car thieves?
First, consider the motivation of a car thief. Your car might be stolen because the make and model are in high demand, because of high-value contents, or because of simple opportunity.
Then consider the methods of thieves. Speed is of the essence. A thief can potentially steal your car in ten seconds, and less if you do something foolish like leaving it unlocked with the keys in the ignition. Thieves are going to assess the situation instantly, and if your car does not present a good opportunity, they will move on.
In that aspect, thieves are like an investor. They look for the greatest opportunity with the lowest risk. The more attractive of a target your car presents, the more effort thieves will put in to steal it. Therefore, you can address this from both sides. Make your car a less attractive target, and make it tougher to steal.
- Take Common Sense Precautions – Even the best anti-theft mechanisms are useless if you do not use them. That's true with the simple ones as well.
Always be in your car while it is running. Don't exit your car to "just run in" for something quick at the store, or leave it warming up in your driveway on cold mornings. You are just asking for the car to be stolen in that case.
Shut the car off, take the keys with you, lock the doors and roll up the windows. Hiding the keys in the car is insufficient. Most thieves know the typical hiding places.
- Maintain Visibility – Park in visible, well-lit areas whenever possible. Thieves do not like lighting; they prefer to work in dark areas where they are not easily detected. Parking garages and similar spaces are often easier for thieves to work in, especially during late, low-traffic hours.
- Hide Valuables – Try not to leave valuables in the car at all, but if you must, make sure they are not in plain sight.
- Limit the Bling – As tempting as it may be to trick out the family minivan or your subcompact, fancy accoutrements such as special rims or massive stereo systems provide a more tempting target.
- Layer Security – Car alarms, steering wheel locks, and similar mechanisms will deter the thief of opportunity, but a more determined thief can easily bypass those methods.
Newer methods such as kill switches, smart keys, and other disabling mechanisms are much harder to defeat. If these are combined with tracking mechanisms such as OnStar or LoJack, your car must have extraordinary value for a thief to take the time to steal it.
It is also wise to limit the personal information in your car. It's bad enough to get your car stolen, but if you have information in there such as your Social Security number, your driver's license, or your date of birth, you can add identity theft to your list of problems.
In the end, your best deterrent is not to be the most attractive target in a particular area. You can't change having a desirable model of car—and why would you?—but you can take the other common sense steps and employ an alarm and disabling/tracking system that is proportionate to the value of the car.
It is a bit like the old joke about two guys running away from an angry bear – "I don't have to outrun the bear, I just have to outrun you."