Batten The Hatches: Holidays Are Prime Time For Car Thieves

July 2, 2010
2010 Nissan Versa

2010 Nissan Versa

Sunburns, fireworks injuries, or overindulgences: If you’re not mindful, they’re all examples of how your long holiday weekend could end on a painful, rather than relaxed, note.

So is coming back to find a vehicle missing or broken into.

Over the long holiday weekend, neighborhoods are likely to be a little emptier than usual, and loud noises—like car alarms going off—are already happening all around.

And that means it’s prime time for car thieves.

Just as you should be especially careful to secure your house when you’re away and not flaunt valuables, you should be vigilant about safeguarding your other vehicles when you’re away in the family wagon.

July and August are the highest months of the year for vehicle theft, which is why the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) and LoJack are kicking off a National Vehicle Theft Protection Month initiative, through July.

Black-market stolen parts value - from LoJack

Black-market stolen parts value - from LoJack

Although vehicle thefts as a whole are declining, according to official U.S. Department of Justice figures, both vehicle break-ins (theft from vehicles) as well as the rate of non-recovered stolen vehicles is on the rise. For non-recovered vehicles, it’s actually at its highest in 20 years. It seems the era of the casual car thief looking for a joyride is over, by some accounts, leaving two groups: opportunists looking to steal property from your vehicle, and savvy professional thieves who know what they should steal, how to do it, and how much money it will bring them.

According to 2008 FBI data, 43 percent (411,444) of vehicles stolen were never recovered. Some of these vehicles end up in chop shops, with parts sold on the black market; others are shipped overseas for sale; and some are resold as used vehicles.

One of the most important points is, if you’re going to leave any of your vehicles parked out in the driveway or streetside, don’t leave anything of value out in the open. Move everything of value out of view and to the trunk, or better yet out of the vehicle, and don’t ever think that thieves won’t break a window for a bin full of coins, or an empty backpack.

The NICB and LoJack recommend three steps for protection:

1) Use common sense measures. Never leave keys in the vehicle with the engine running.  Don’t hide a spare key in the vehicle.  Close all windows and lock all doors when leaving your vehicle.  Park in a well-lit area and, when at home, keep your vehicle in the garage.  Don’t leave valuables visible in your car, particularly those items that include your personal information —thieves can drive off not only with your car, but your identity as well.

2) Use theft prevention products. An amateur thief may be less inclined to steal your car if it has visible and audible warning devices like a wheel lock or alarm system.  Immobilizers—which include smart keys, kill switches and fuel cut-off devices—can offer another means of protection.  While the professionals can often disable these devices, they do offer another means of deterrence.

3) Use a tracking and recovery system. Since thieves can typically disarm most theft prevention devices, recovery systems provide the peace of mind that you’ll get your car back – often quickly – in the event it is stolen.  The most effective systems are directly integrated into law enforcement, use Radio Frequency technology, which has proven to be optimal for recovering stolen vehicles, and are covert so they cannot be disengaged.


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