Theft from an unoccupied car is the most common crime reported to police officers in residential areas across the country. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, car theft accounts for more than 35% of all larceny reported to law enforcement. Given that a car is stolen every 44 seconds in the United States, this is a crime that all vehicle owners need to be aware of and take steps to protect themselves from becoming the next victim of car prowlers.
There are a few ways to prevent your vehicle from being broken in to by discouraging criminals and providing them with fewer motives.
Crime of Opportunity
Theft from a motor vehicle is most often a crime of opportunity, done quickly and usually without premeditation. The majority of these thefts are done in the pursuit of items left in plain view. A cellphone left in a cup-holder, a purse on the floorboard, or shopping bags left in a back seat make the perfect target for prowlers to make a quick “smash-and-grab”. Car theft is not limited to items within the car, but may also include car parts that are easy to remove and sell. Batteries, tires, and catalytic converters which contain precious metals may be cut or stripped from a vehicle that is perceived as sitting in one spot for too long, allowing ample time for removal.
Ways to Protect Yourself
There are a few best tactics, sanctioned by law enforcement and security experts for car owners to prevent themselves from car theft.
The first, and most important is to be aware of what is in your car. Don’t leave your keys in the ignition, even if you’re parked in your own driveway. Take your valuables with you. This includes your wallet, phone, and anything else of value that you wouldn’t want falling in the hands of a thief. Car safety begins with an awareness of what and where. If you’re parked in a poorly lit area, or for an extended period of time, you’ve provided a would-be car thief with plenty of opportunity.
What You Can Do
Parking your car in a garage at night can help restrict access to your vehicle, and therefore limit the opportunity of theft. While garage thefts do happen, they are at a much lower rate than cars which are parked on the street or in a shopping center parking lot. If you have items in your car that you can’t take with you, consider placing them out of sight in a trunk or under a seat. While this does not prevent car theft, concealing items of value may discourage prowlers from further exploration.
Even with all items out of sight, the most important tactic for preventing car theft by far is remembering to lock your vehicle and set the alarm. Car prowlers are most successful when their crime goes unnoticed for some time. If the doors are unlocked, providing easy access to the interior of your vehicle, the possibility of theft increases exponentially.
Awareness of your vehicle and its contents is vital in helping deter auto crime. Prevent yourself from becoming a possible victim of car theft by parking in well-lit, high-traffic areas. This will hopefully discourage a crime of opportunity, and encourage over-all car safety tactics by protecting your valuables and car parts from criminals.