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Every day you rely on your car to get to work, take your kids to school and sometimes it is your fortress of solitude where you can share your love of the Trolls soundtrack at the top of your lungs. Your vehicle is an essential part of your life. But while your car, van or truck is your primary mode of transportation, it is often overlooked when it comes to security.
Don’t Create Your Own Crime
Don’t be the reason your car is targeted for a crime. A crime of opportunity is when a person spontaneously commits a crime without planning because certain circumstances present themselves and perceives a low risk of being caught.
For example a car owner being careless by leaving an iPad on a car seat and leaving the window down. In this case the car owner was irresponsible and created the opportunity for a crime to occur. Is the car owner fully to blame? No as no crime HAD to take place, the perpetrator is still legally at fault. But the car owner does share some of the blame.
Also, don’t leave your smart keys (or any type of key) in the car. You may toss the fob in a cup holder, in plain view from the window and not ever think about it since you have a keyless start. Cars with smart keys cannot be locked from the outside as the key fob is inside. This would the easiest and quickest score for a thief. Don’t make your car an easy target.
Make sure your car doors are locked. This may sound obvious, but many people don’t lock their cars if they won’t be gone long or if they are parked for the night at their home. Also make sure your windows are rolled all the way up. Leaving them cracked will attract attention. Car windows can be rocked easily and taken off the track giving a thief enough room to put their arm inside and unlock the door at the switch.
Even though your doors are locked and windows are up, your car can still be stolen by a thief with a rock. Smashing a car window is the least desirable way to take a car or get something inside it, but it's a tried and true method. So that leads us to our next tip.
Keep your car from being a target by cleaning up the inside. Keeping your vehicle clear of valuables like phones, tablets and purses will put your car lower on a criminal’s list. The cars at the top of the list are ones that show a bad guy what they can get from your car. Even if you toss your iPhone into the console, make sure you store the charger away too. Don’t let that be a giveaway. Making your car a mystery will require more effort and time on the part of the thief. Put your valuables under the seat, in the console or best of all the trunk or cargo area.
I’m not a fan of key hiders at all, for your car or your home. Runners use key hiders on their cars all the time. I’ve seen women get out of their cars, place the key in the hider and stick it under the wheel well and jog off. Everyone knows this trick. Or you can up your game by placing it in plain sight like this truck owner did…
Let this sink in a moment. They key hider is in plain view of any passerby. I was literally a passer by when I spotted it. I can’t make this stuff up.
Some key hiders have a combination lock on it. These offer no security. The box is still magnetic and can be taken easily. It can be smashed open with a rock. If your situation requires you not carry stuff, like jogging for instance, I recommend a running belt. Your phone, wallet and keys can all be stored in the belt while you work out.
Car stickers are a great way to express your originality, but they can also increase your chances of being targeted for a smash and grab or worse. Stickers can say a lot about you. They can advertise your age, workplace/school and typical patterns of your behavior. A high school cheerleader sticker with the name Amber on it tells a bad guy you have a teenage daughter named Amber who goes to Yourtown High School, that most days she stays late for practice and that her parents will be gone to watch her cheer on Friday nights in the fall. Thus your house will be unguarded. Do not give this type of information away.
Also, don’t advertise what is in your car with branding stickers. YETI stickers are very popular where I live. Displaying this on your truck could clue a thief into a high dollar valuable in your car. Plus a cooler is easily pawned for good cash. In the same way, don’t put a Ruger or Glock sticker on your window either. While you think telling people you have gun may deter a thief from messing with you, it instead tells them there is a good chance there is a gun inside your vehicle. The theft of a gun leads to more crime and someone may be killed with your gun. Don’t take the risk. I have an entire Secure Dad 101 article on this for a more in-depth analysis.
Just because your car is parked in your driveway does not mean that it is safe. It is not uncommon to see thieves hit multiple cars in a neighborhood in a single night. Sometimes these thieves are skilled professionals and sometimes they are a group of neighborhood kids out looking for Grand Theft Auto style fun. Regardless, night is the time when your car is most likely to be stolen or broken into at your home. Keep your valuables, including your garage door opener out of sight. Lock your doors and keep your windows up. If you can add a motion sensor light to your driveway, I highly recommend it.
While your car is more likely to be targeted at night at your home, it is more likely to be targeted during the day in the parking lot. (So your car is pretty much a target all the time.) Office building parking lots are hotspots for crime as thieves can predict that most people will be coming and going from the lot. People will generally come to work between 8:00 and 9:00 am and not come out again until 11:30 or so for lunch. Then from 2:00 to 4:00 pm most people stay inside until it is time to go home. Likewise schools and churches have similar predictable patterns. Most car crime happens fast. It is violent, messy and quick.
Speaking of work parking areas, parking garages are great for thieves. Garages offer a secluded place for vehicles to be targeted and stolen, especially dark ones. Since there is not a lot of foot traffic, bad guys can work unnoticed. Security cameras do offer some protection, but a mask can void any sort of value they offer.
What Can I Do Then?
There are many products out there that can deter a break in or outright theft of your car. The option that comes to mind is The Club. Yes, it is still around and quite the array of colors. The Club is a steering wheel lock that keeps according to it’s product description, “makes the vehicle impossible to steer.” Though the same product description says the “twin hook design is tougher for thieves to defeat.” So it’s not foolproof but it will certainly deter a segment of lesser experienced thieves.
The easiest thing you can do to keep your car safe is practice common sense. Don’t leave your keys or smart key fob in your car. Make sure you stash your valuables under seats, in consoles and in your trunk. Always lock your car and roll the windows up. The first line of defense for your vehicle is to keep it from being targeted for a crime in the first place.
For further reading, read my story of being a target of road rage and what you can learn from my experience. Consider subscribing to The Secure Dad Newsletter for tips on making your family safer.