Cars are big targets for thieves.
People spend a lot of time in their cars, and because of this, they tend to accumulate many valuable items out of convenience which can attract opportunistic thieves.
A car is also valuable in-and-of itself which can attract bolder thieves looking for even bigger bounties.
While some types of car insurance will protect you from thieves, this is not always the case and you could be left majorly out of pocket if anything of value is stolen. It is also a difficult crime for police to solve, as it only takes a minute to sack a car in the middle of the night, and it is hard to track down suspects of a random crime of opportunity - even if you capture them on video.
Unfortunately, I know this from experience. I live in a middle-class, suburban neighborhood that is highly targeted for car break-ins. I believe that our neighborhood is targeted because many in the area simply have poor street smarts in the way of anti-theft, and the thieves of opportunity have come to know of this.
It is important for you as a car owner to take simple steps to help prevent your car from getting stolen or valuables stolen from your car. After watching Ring cam footage, listening to stories exclaimed by victims on Nextdoor, and doing a bit of research; I came up with some tips that I want to share.
Park in a garage if possible
Ok, this one’s obvious; but in a neighborhood where everyone has garages, I often see many cars parked on the street or in the driveway. Where you park your car goes a long way as to how safe it is going to be when left unattended.
If you are parked on a street, obviously you have a lot more chance of your vehicle being broken into than if it was in a garage. If you have access to a garage and you wish to keep your vehicle safe, use it!
I know that a lot of people like to use their garages for storage, but I would urge those of you who do to at least clear enough space to fit your truck or car.
Lock your doors
A lot of people get comfortable when parked in their driveway and may forget to lock their doors when exiting the vehicle.
Always lock your car immediately when you get out. Make it a habit to not walk away unless you’ve heard the beep of your automatic locks. If it’s an old vehicle, make it a habit to check the handle before leaving it.
Even if you are only leaving your car unattended for a short time, you should always make sure that the doors and trunk of the car are locked and the windows are rolled up.
When I see Ring footage of car break-ins on Nextdoor, the thieves are usually of the low-opportunistic sort who literally walk down the street trying the car door handles on every vehicle until they find one that is open.
Don’t make it easy for them here.
Hide your valuables
You really shouldn’t leave any valuable items in your car. If you value it, take it with you into the house, work, store, etc.
However, some items may be vehicle related - like a dedicated GPS - or you may be out shopping and it’s just not feasible to take these items with you. If this is the case, make sure that they are not visible.
Thieves will be more aggressive about getting into your car, if they can see that you have something valuable that they want. Place small items in the glove box, and hide larger valuables in the trunk.
I like to keep a heavy blanket in the trunk of my car to double for both winter emergencies and covering items in my trunk (I drive a hatchback with a lightly tinted rear window).
Consider getting dark tint (check your local laws) for all your windows. You want to make it as hard as possible for a thief to case your vehicle.
Make sure you are safe by hiding valuables, or at the very least, obscuring them from view. Preferably don’t keep them in your car at all.
Light up your vehicle
If you have no choice but to park in the street or another busy place outside of a private garage, try to make sure that you are in an open, well-lit area.
Thieves are more likely to break into a car where they are not going to be disturbed so you need to make a break in risky for them.
Put your car in some kind of spotlight for all to see. Light is a thief’s worst enemy at night. If you are parked in your driveway, ensure that your porch light is on and invest in a motion sensing flood light.
If you are out at a strip mall or in the city, park underneath a bright street lamp. Do not park in secluded darkness where a thief will have more time to comfortably break into your car.
Advertise that you have an alarm system
Having some kind of anti-theft device in your car is definitely going to work to your advantage when trying to deter burglars. An alarm is your best option because this will sound when anybody is tampering with your vehicle.
I would invest in an alarm system that has some form of visible deterrence. Many in-built alarm systems will come with a flashing LED indicator somewhere on the dash. At night, when thieves are looking for juicy targets to dig into, a flashing, red light on a car’s dashboard will send most thieves looking for an easier break in.
You can even buy cheap, dummy alarm warning lights that can be installed on your dashboard. A lot of experienced thieves know that these warning lights can be faked, but they are far less likely to take the chance to find out.
Include a steering wheel lock
So far, we’ve mostly talked about preventing opportunistic break-ins. But what if a thief is determined to commit grand theft? A steering wheel lock is one way to dissuade such individuals as a last line of defense.
There are many forms of steering wheel locks with the most common one known as “The Club”, but they all perform the same function: they prevent the steering wheel from being able to be turned completely.
This would make it extremely difficult for a car thief to drive off with your vehicle with it still attached. Some steering wheel locks can be defeated by picking the lock or cutting it or the steering wheel, but that would require a crook to carry dedicated tools and spend precious time risking their freedom.
Hopefully, if someone is looking to make off with your vehicle, they will pass it up once they see a lock installed on the steering wheel. This combined with all the other steps should make your car a very unappealing target.
If you follow all of the steps listed above, you will be far less likely to succumb to car break-ins and even grand theft auto. Lock your car doors. Keep it in the garage, if you have one. If you don’t have a garage or are out on the town, make sure you park in a well-lit, visible area. Take all your valuables with you or store them somewhere not visible. Ensure that you have an alarm warning system flashing visibly on the dash, and lock your steering wheel as a last resort to deter the riskier thieves.