One of the most infuriating things that can happen to a car owner is one of the most common forms of larceny in the U.S., the “smash-and-grab” car break-in. These thieves don’t even steal your whole car, just the valuable items in it – which you then have to painstakingly replace while dealing with the arduous and costly car-repair process.
While there’s no way to 100% deter these kinds of thieves, there are some common-sense steps you can take to make your vehicle a much less appealing target. Above all, thieves look for opportunities. Make them “work” for their pilfered prizes, and they’ll most likely just forget it and move on to an easier target.
Car smash-and-grabs happen out of sight
Most thieves go solo, the last thing they want is a crowd of onlookers with cell phones and pepper spray at the ready, so try to keep your car highly visible:
- Park near other people. Go for busy lots where there’s plenty of pedestrian and vehicle traffic.
- If you’ll be away from your car after dark, park in a well-lit area or near a lamppost.
- Choose a lot with an attendant over one without.
Discourage thieves with anti-theft measures
Thieves are also lazy. With car break-ins, they’re usually not looking for a huge payoff. What this type of thief wants is a quick thrill – or maybe a little extra revenue – for as little work as possible. By making your car a harder target for these people, you make it less desirable:
- Always lock your doors and roll up your windows when you park.
- Activate your security system if you have one.
- Consider window tinting (if permitted by local laws), since it makes casing your car more difficult.
- Use after-market measures, like mechanisms that lock the steering wheel to protect your car and alert thieves that you’ve taken extra security measures.
- Don’t use the console or glove box as mobile lock boxes. These are obvious to thieves, too.
Theft prevention starts before you even leave your vehicle smash-and-grab thieves typically aren’t criminal masterminds who craft clever schemes to swipe your stuff. Most are casual opportunists. They see something they like, so they break in and take it. So before you get out of your car, make sure your valuables are out of sight. Never leave these things lying out on your seats, dashboard or floor:
- Purse or wallet
- Laptop (or its bag)
- A briefcase or backpack
- Shopping bags
- An MP3 player or other small electronics
- CDs if you still use them
- Cash – yes, even loose change/coins
- Your keys – it actually happens!
Don’t hand them the keys
Again, car smash-and-grabbers don’t normally take the vehicle itself. However, there is always the chance that a key on the dash or in the ignition may motivate the more daring into outright auto theft. Also, remember that if you have a great hiding place for a key – say, in your wheel well or above the sun visor – a thief has also thought of it. So if you’re away from your car, keep your keys away from it too. Preferably with you.
Beware a watchful eye
While your trunk is better than the passenger compartment for shopping bags and laptops, an experienced thief will often stake out a parking lot and watch you transfer your things there. So before you even get to where you’ll be leaving your car unattended, move your valuables to the trunk or wherever they’re out of sight.
Be alert for signs of car thieves
See suspicious activity? Trust your instincts and don’t park there. And never confront anyone yourself. If you’re concerned, report your suspicions to an attendant or the police.
Learn more about how to prevent car theft
Again, theft is often an opportunity. If someone breaks into your car and realizes they have the opportunity to steal your vehicle as well as your valuables, you face a much larger loss. Here are five things you should always do for car theft protection:
- Always lock your vehicle (even while driving)
- When parked, leave all windows – including the sunroof – closed
- Know where you’re going and plan routes that avoid high crime areas whenever possible
- Park in well-lit areas
- Never leave your car unattended if it’s running
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