There were 721,885 thefts of motor vehicles in 2019, according to FBI statistics. More than $6.4 billion was lost as a result. The vast majority of vehicles stolen—close to 74.5%–were automobiles. The exact numbers on thefts from vehicles—someone stealing an item from a car—are a bit harder to find, but they’re likely much higher. And it’s not just a purse or laptop left on the seat—car thieves are aggressively targeting valuable car parts.
This kind of crime has likely affected you already, or at least someone you know. Given the importance of automobiles in many of our lives, you’d probably like to keep it from happening again.
Prevention of vehicle theft or break-in is largely a matter of taking several steps designed to make your ride a less appealing target. Like electricity, criminals tend to seek the path of least resistance, and by putting obstacles in your way you’re encouraging them to seek an easier mark. Toward that end . . .
Think about where you park.
Leaving your car overnight in a dimly lit alley is probably not ideal. Nor is parking it behind an abandoned warehouse near your work site. In a perfect world, we’d all have garages with locking doors and exterior lights on at night. Obviously, a lot is dictated by your circumstances, but do your best to leave your car someplace well lit and visible, if not secure behind a garage door or locked gate.
Don’t leave anything on your seats.
Just don’t—stash it in the trunk, the glove box, or at least under the seat. And this only applies to things that have to be in the car; briefcases, laptop bags, etc should go inside with you whenever possible. It’ll amaze you what criminals will try to steal–I once had someone force open my truck’s door to boost a box of old spark plugs.
Don’t leave your car running.
I don’t care where you are, or how quickly you’ll be in and out. It’s just asking for trouble to leave a vehicle in a state that’s so easy to steal. Shut it off, lock it, and take the keys with you—it’ll help keep honest people honest.
Have the appropriate insurance, if possible.
Nothing takes the sting out of a lost or damaged vehicle like knowing it won’t be a complete financial disaster as well.
Consider an alarm and tracking system.
They can help keep your car from being stolen in the first place, and make recovery infinitely easier if something does happen.
Put identifying marks on all valuable parts/components.
I’m told by friends in law enforcement that rims and expensive headlights are common targets for theft. Engraving your telephone number and address on them can aid in their recovery after a theft.
Use common sense while driving and parking away from home.
We’ve done a whole article about this, so please review it. The executive summary is this: pay attention to your surroundings while parking and moving to or from your vehicle. If something feels off, park elsewhere.
Safety is never guaranteed, and nothing is ever theft-proof. But following these guidelines and exercising your own best judgment can help keep you from becoming part of the FBI’s next statistical year.