Three cars are stolen every minute in the United States, while millions more are broken into, resulting in damage and the theft of valuable or precious items like cellphones, radios and just about anything the thief can sell. In Florida, over 41,000 vehicles were reported stolen in 2010. The result: loss, inconvenience and, sometimes, heartbreak.
While it’s virtually impossible to make a car impenetrable, you can substantially cut the risk of becoming a theft victim. Here are our Top 10 tips to deter thieves.
1. Always lock doors and close windows (other than leaving an air gap for pets) no matter how short a time you’re away from the vehicle. Even lock it on your driveway and in your garage.
2. Never leave keys in the ignition or the engine running once you get out – even if you’re parked right by and using an ATM.
3. Never leave anything, including low-value items and especially cash (even just a few coins) visible. Take them with you or lock them in the glove box or trunk, but be cautious – a thief might be watching. Better yet – don’t put valuables in your car unless you need them.
4. When parking, especially at night, select a spot that is busy, in clear view and, at night, well lit. Look for nearby security cameras.
5. Don’t have anything on your key ring that identifies your vehicle or your home address. Use a cellphone number or email address if you want a finder to contact you if the keys are lost.
6. Your car should be alarmed, and the alarm should always be armed when you’re not in it. Most modern car alarms have multiple settings for different purposes – so read the instruction book!
7. If you have a conventional radio (that is, one that is store-bought rather than built-in by the auto manufacturer), remove the knobs and even put some black insulating tape over parts of it. It won’t look nice – but that’s the whole idea!
8. Don’t use hidden key boxes under the vehicle or in the wheel arches. Thieves know where to look.
9. Consider having your Vehicle Identification Number etched on your windows and other car parts. That makes them hard to sell and the vehicle more difficult to disguise – thus less attractive to a thief.
10. In high risk areas, consider additional security, like steering wheel clamps or vehicle tracking equipment (though this can be expensive). One day, in the not-too-distance future, we’ll probably have wireless webcams on our dashboards – roll on that day!