|You can take steps to keep your car safe from thieves.|
You know how frustrating it is when you can’t remember where you parked your car? Imagine how you’d feel if you can remember all right, but your car just isn’t there! This is the unfortunate experience of thousands of hapless car owners every day who become the victims of car thieves. Fortunately, there are things you can do to lessen the likelihood you’ll be one of them.
If your car is stolen, one of three things will likely happen to it: It will be taken for a joy ride and end up damaged or completely trashed. It will be sold on the black market, possibly overseas. Or it will be dismantled in a chop shop and sold for parts.
How likely is this to be the fate of your vehicle? That depends on the year, make, and model of your car. The National Insurance Crime Bureau — NCIB — produces an annual report showing the ten most-stolen vehicles in the United States. Is your car on the 2011 list below?
Obviously, car thieves aren’t choosy; the list of vehicles includes both sedans and pickups, foreign and domestic makes, of any year. Notably, newer vehicles are less commonly stolen, partly because they tend to benefit from better security systems.
The good news is that, overall, car theft rates have been coming down over the past few years. According to FBI crime statistics, 2011 saw a 3.3% reduction in vehicle thefts compared to 2010. This makes it the lowest rate since 1967.
Of course, lower rates do not mean your car is safe. Joe Wehrle, NICB President and CEO, notes, “While overall thefts continue to decline, we are seeing a trend toward increases in the thefts of late model vehicles — ones that are theoretically harder to steal due to sophisticated key code technology.”
Wehrle explains, “Today’s vehicle thieves are typically professional criminals who have figured out how to get the key code for a specific vehicle, have a replacement key made, and steal the vehicle within a matter of days. We are aware of nearly 300 thefts that took place in the first three months of this year in which we believe replacement keys using illegally obtained key codes were used to steal the vehicle. We are working closely with our member companies, law enforcement, and the vehicle manufacturers to track these illegal key code transactions and stop the thefts or recover the stolen vehicles before they can be resold here or shipped out of the country to be sold overseas.”
Whatever car you own, there are things you can do to protect yourself. The NICB suggests a layered approach.
Common Sense – Don’t make it easy for thieves. Always lock your car and take your keys, even if you’re only going to be gone a minute. Another obvious but easily overlooked suggestion is simply being careful where you park. For example, when leaving your car in a shopping mall lot in the evening, try to park near a busy road or beneath a street lamp where your car is more likely to be visible to passersby. Also, never leave valuables like purses, briefcases, cell phones, or laptops visible; either take them with you or lock them in the trunk.
Warning Devices – A visual or audible warning device, such as a car alarm that flashes the lights and honks the horn, or even sounds a siren, can be annoying to neighbors in the middle of the night, but may be enough to scare off thieves who prefer not to draw attention to themselves.
Immobilizing Devices – A kill switch that disables the ignition or shuts off the fuel line makes your car much harder to steal. Thieves like to work fast and anything that slows them down is likely to send them looking elsewhere. We’d also suggest a locking device, like The Club, that makes it impossible to steer the car.
Tracking Devices – If your car is stolen, a system that phones home or that alerts the police or a monitoring company and reports its position using a combination of GPS and cell phone technology, will increase the likelihood of successful recovery.
Following these suggestions will go a long way in protecting your car, and your peace of mind.