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Car Theft Prevention

By: · August 17, 2009

Every 26 seconds someone in the United States becomes a victim of auto theft. If you become one of the statistics, the chances of your vehicle being recovered are slightly more than one in two, so protecting your property is well worth the extra effort and expense. While no one is immune from auto theft, those who live in large metropolitan areas, close to a major port or international border, or own a sports or luxury vehicle (including SUVs) are statistically more likely to be a target for theft. Ownership of an older vehicle will not rule your vehicle out as a possible victim. Newer vehicles may come equipped with theft deterrent devices, so the professional thief is more inclined to go for the easier mark, an unprotected vehicle that’s six to eight years old…

Layered Approach

Whatever type of vehicle you own, insurance carriers and law-enforcement agencies recommend what they call the layered approach. The more layers of protection around the vehicle, the more discouraged amateur thieves will be, and the longer it might take the pros to crack the multiple codes. This approach allows, hopefully, for detection before the vehicle ends up in the local chop shop. Of the following “layers,” the first two deter amateur car thieves, the third can discourage a pro and the fourth can help recover your vehicle while it’s still intact.

Common Sense
Some of these recommended items under “common sense” are really obvious, but don’t scoff: 80 percent of all autos stolen in 2002 were unlocked at the time, and half of that number had the keys conveniently in the ignition.

Lock your car, roll up the windows—and don’t leave the key in the ignition.

Store spare keys in your wallet, not tucked away in a “safe” place on the car. Thieves know all the conventional “safe hiding places” for spare keys.

Don’t leave the car running and unattended, even in your own driveway.

Remove the knob-type door-lock buttons and replace them with tapered ones.

If you’ve installed security devices, use them every time you leave your car unattended.

Avoid leaving your car in an unattended parking lot for extended periods of time. Vehicles are five times more likely to be stolen from an unattended lot than from the street or an attended lot. According to FBI statistics, the top spots for auto theft are malls, apartments, stores, churches and office buildings—all locations where the thief can safely assume he’s got some time to make off with your car.

If you have to leave a key with a parking attendant, leave only the ignition key.

Make sure your vehicle’s VIN number is recorded and kept in a safe place at home.

At night, park in well-lit areas with pedestrian traffic.

Turn wheels sharply toward the curb to make it difficult for thieves to tow your car.

If you have a garage, use it.

Keep contents and valuables out of sight, locked in the trunk or under the seat.

Warning Devices

Just as this category implies, these devices let the potential felon know your vehicle is not an easy mark. Even annoying car alarms can be effective deterrents against amateur thieves.

Audible alarms

Steering wheel, brake and/or wheel locks or steering-column collars, visible deterrents as well as mechanical challenges.

Theft-deterrent decals

ID markers in or on the vehicles or window etching. Thieves have to alter the VIN number to resell the vehicle; if that number is etched on the windshield as well as major components, it represents a major deterrent.


These devices prevent thieves from bypassing the ignition system and hot wiring the vehicle.

Smart keys

High security locks and keys

Fuse cut-offs

Kill switches

Starter, ignition and fuel disablement

Tracking Devices

There are two types of tracking devices: passive and active. The passive ones automatically arm themselves when the vehicle is turned off, the ignition key removed and the door shut. Active devices require some independent physical action before they are set, pushing a button, placing a “lock” over a vehicle component part, etc. These actions must be repeated every time the anti-theft device is set or it will not function. As the name implies, tracking devices emit a signal that allows law enforcement to track the vehicle.

None of these devices is 100 percent foolproof, but the theory is valid: the harder your vehicle is to steal, the safer it is. While professional car thieves are fairly street-smart, they couldn’t be that smart or they’d have figured out a better way to make a living. So, use your own common sense and appropriate security devices and you can easily outsmart them.

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