Every 44 seconds — that’s how often a vehicle is stolen somewhere in the U.S., according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The latest statistics from the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) show that California leads the nation in auto theft figures: While the national average for car thefts increased by 1.3 percent in 2012, California’s average increased 11 percent over the same time period. Florida, Texas, New York and Illinois round out the top five states for car theft.
Fortunately for owners who want to protect their cars, there are some ways you can help prevent a thief from making off with your car:
The National Crime Prevention Council says the large majority of car thefts are “crimes of opportunity.” So, as a car owner, it’s up to you to minimize the number of opportunities for someone to steal your car. This means consistently following preventative measures, such as locking your car doors and rolling up your windows, in the hope that thieves will pass over your car because it’s not an easy target.
If you want to make it harder for someone to steal your car, another tactic is to protect those car keys. Never leave your keys in your car, because if someone breaks in, finding your keys at the ready makes stealing your car a breeze.
Think throwing your keys on the kitchen table when you come in the door is safe? Think again. The NHTSA says it’s becoming more common for car thieves to break into homes in order to steal vehicle keys. To combat this, INTERPOL advises that you should make sure that when you’re at home, your car keys are not in plain sight.
The international police agency also says that you should avoid marking your keys with your name and address. Labeling your car keys might aid a good Samaritan to return your lost keys to you, but if someone with less benevolent motives discovers your lost keys, they will know exactly where to look for — and steal — your parked car.
In addition to making sure no one can access your car, you should also think about making your vehicle less of a tempting target. One strategy is to make sure a prowling would-be thief doesn’t look through your car windows and see dollar signs. That means taking anything valuable, such as purses, wallets, cameras, travel DVD players, GPS devices and other pricey portables, with you when you leave your car. Also, don’t wait until reaching your destination to put away all of your valuables. If someone watches you fill up your trunk with expensive items and walk away, you’ve just made your car an attractive target.
The NHTSA notes that more than half of thefts occur in areas without parking attendants — including residential garages and lots. So, whether you’re parking in the garage at your apartment building or on a downtown street, you should practice precautions. INTERPOL suggests the following:
If you’re parking in the garage at your house, make sure to always lock all entrances to the garage. And, no matter where you park, you should never leave your vehicle unattended when it’s running — even if it’s in your own driveway.
When all other tactics fail, a good car alarm can deter many would-be car thieves. In addition to common-sense steps like locking your car doors, the National Insurance Crime Bureau also recommends considering three other layers of protection. These include:
You can’t predict when a thief may try to steal your car. But, by taking some precautions, you can make a car thief’s job as difficult as possible.