How to prevent car theft

Who is a typical car thief?

He's male, probably less than twenty years old, with a 60% chance that he is under 18. Of course, some cars are stolen by established criminal gangs involved in car stripping rings and by those wishing to use stolen cars to use as get away cars, but most cars are stolen by opportunists, like the 13 and 14 year olds who steal cars to show off or to Joy Ride.

Typically, your car is your second greatest investment after your home. And if you're like a lot of car enthusiasts, it's a source of pride and joy. One danger that thousands of people per year deal with is theft. Don't think for a minute that your vehicle cannot be stolen. The truth is that no car is theft-proof. A professional thief can steal virtually any car, anytime, and anywhere. So, how do you guard against the danger of theft? It's easier when you understand some of the characteristics of the crime.

The first step in understanding auto theft is learning that there are basically four reasons why vehicles are stolen:

  • For "Joy Riding" or
  • A means of getting the thief home (the car is then dumped)
  • For "Chop Shops" or
  • Stolen to order for export abroad.

While you are eating, sleeping, working, or otherwise preoccupied, a thief can take your car to use it, strip it, or ship it. You may be left with a car that has been driven, damaged or abandoned.

The second step in understanding auto theft is learning about the nature of the crime itself. Vehicle theft is a "crime of opportunity." With millions of vehicles to choose from, thieves usually opt for the "easiest car to steal" in the area. For a thief, the easiest car to steal is one that suits the thief's purposes, one that can be entered and started quickly, and one that can be moved from place to place undetected. Whether a thief is stealing any car in sight as a means of getting home, or is determined to steal a higher-priced luxury car, the specific car stolen will be the one that is easiest to take.

To illustrate this point, let us consider the following scenario. There are two similar Mercedes sitting in front of a Supermarket. One is locked, and the other is idling with the doors unlocked. Which one would a thief steal? Simple.

Let us change the scenario slightly. The same two cars are sitting in front of a Supermarket. This time, both cars are locked. However, one of the cars has a locking device attached to the steering wheel. Which one would a thief most likely steal? Now you begin to see the pattern of how this works. A thief will almost always take the easiest target.

When you begin installing "barriers," you make your car harder to steal. Remember, spending a fortune in an effort to make your car theft-proof is not the goal. The real goal is to make your car less inviting to a thief.

Tips on how to prevent Car Theft

  • One of the fastest growing ways to steal your car is to steal your car keys. This is commonly done by feeding a wire or grasp hook through your letter box or porch window. Never leave your car keys in the hall or in the porch or on a convenient hook as this is inviting car theft.
  • Never leave your car engine running, even if you will only be gone for a minute. Cars are commonly stolen at Supermarkets, Petrol stations, Fast Food outlets, Cash Machines etc.  There has been many cars stolen on cold mornings when the owner leaves the car running on the drive to warm up.
  • When you leave your car unattended, even for short periods, close the windows and sunroof, lock all doors and remove the key from the ignition.
  • Never hide a second set of keys in your car. Extra keys can easily be found by an experienced thief.
  • Do not leave important documents such as bank statements, credit card bills, statements or other personal information in your vehicle. Thieves can use this information to steal your identity and access your bank and credit card accounts.
  • Don't leave your driving licence or registration documents in your car. These could help the thief sell or dispose of your car.
  • Make sure you remove your Satellite Navigation devices. (Always use a lock code on your sat navigation system. No point helping the thief who has stolen your car to then rob your house by having your HOME destination programmed into your Sat Nav)
  • Ensure that you have removed all property from view, especially mobile phones, clothing, bags and loose change in consoles. When you leave your car either take your belongings with you or lock them in the boot.
  • Try to park in a busy well lit area and avoid car parks that have a history of theft or break-ins.
  • When you park your car in daylight, consider how the area may look like in the dark. Most car thefts occur at night.
  • Avoid parking in unattended areas where car thieves have less chance of being caught.
  • Park with your wheels turned towards the kerb. Make your car tough to tow away. Wheels should also be turned to the side in car parks and driveways.
  • If your vehicle is rear-wheel drive, back into your driveway. Front-wheel drive vehicles should be parked front-end first. On four-wheel drive vehicles, the rear wheels sometimes lock, making your car difficult to tow-away.
  • Always use your hand-brake when parking. Leave automatic transmission in park and manual transmissions should be left in gear. As well as ensuring safety, it makes your car much harder to tow-away.
  • If you have a garage, use it. Nearly 50% of all car crime occurs right outside the house. By locking the garage and the car doors, the chances of deterring a theft greatly improves.
  • Consider having an engine immobilizer or fuel cut-out switch installed to restrict the theft of your motor vehicle. Research has shown that this is one of the most effective ways to beat a car thief.
  • Use a locking device on the steering wheel or transmission gear lever. These devices act as a deterrent; they are very visible and make it more difficult and time-consuming for the car thief.
  • If you are likely to leave your car unattended for a long period (extended Holiday or Work assignment) you should consider disabling your vehicle by removing the electronic ignition fuse, coil wire or rotor distributor.
  • For a car that is rarely used, consider a tyre or wheel lock. (Like the clampers use) This prevents the car from moving.
  • Vehicle identification number (VIN). Stolen cars are more easily traced and recovered when vehicle VIN numbers have been etched on car windows and expensive accessories.
  • Another good idea is to drop business cards, address labels or other I.D. inside car doors. (i.e. in the gap, when the windows are wound down) Car thieves usually alter vehicle identification numbers, by marking your vehicle as much as possible; you frustrate the thief and assist the police in identifying your car.
  • Consider installing a car alarm. They sound a loud warning when the doors, bonnet or car boot are opened. Optional sensors include glass breakage, motion, tampering, and towing. Panic buttons, back-up batteries, flashing parking lights or headlights, and automatic engine disable features are also recommended.

How to prevent car theft - Tips and Advice - Article No 45 RoadDriver 2010.

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