One of the most infuriating things that can happen to a car owner – and it’s one of the most common forms of crime in the U.S. is the vehicle “smash-and-grab”. They don’t want your car, just the valuable in it – which you then have to replace while dealing with cost of repairing the broken window, lock, or stereo system.
While there’s no way to 100% deter these kinds of incidents, however; there are some common-sense steps you can take to make your vehicle a much less appealing target. Above all, thieves look for opportunities. Opportunities include what’s visible inside the car that is of value, the chances of being caught, the amount of time required to break in, and the amount of noise generated. The windows in the vehicle make it easy to window shop. Make the thieves “work” for their prizes, and they’ll most likely just forget it and move on to an easier target.
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. What was yours is now mine!! If they don’t see anything they most likely move on. 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)—even if empty
- A briefcase or backpack
- Shopping bags, even if empty
- An MP3 player or other small electronics
- CDs including empty CD holders
- Eyeglasses, sunglasses, rings, garage door openers, mail, insurance papers
- Cash – yes, even loose change/coins or anything that looks like money
- Any keys of any kind– it actually happens!
- Clothing, hats, caps, shoes, umbrellas
Car smash-and-grabs happen out of sight
Most thieves work in pairs. In some cases they have a lookout. So try to keep your car highly visible areas:
- Park near other vehicles.
- 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 don’t have much time to be picky. With car break-ins, they’re usually not looking for a huge payoff. What this type of thief wants is a quick pick – something they a pawn for a little extra money – for as little work as possible. By making your car a harder target for these people, you make it less desirable. So:
- Always lock your doors and roll up your windows when you park.
- Activate your security system if you have one.
- Use after-market measures, like mechanisms that lock the steering wheel to protect your car.
- Consider window tinting (if permitted by local laws), since it makes casing your car more difficult.
Smash-and-grabbers don’t normally take the vehicle itself, unless you make it easy for them. There is always the chance that a key on the dash or in the ignition may motivate the more daring into outright auto theft. Most experienced thieves know where you are most likely to hide the keys to your car. Don’t try to outsmart a thief. They spend their leisure time thinking of where to hide keys. So if you’re away from your car, keep your keys away from it too.
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.
Beware of who may be watching
An experienced thief will often stake out a parking lot to see who is transferring valuables into the truck. If he catches you doing this you just made your vehicle his next prime target. So before you even get to where you’ll be leaving your car unattended, move your valuables to the trunk.
Learn more about how to prevent car theft
Again, theft is often a crime of 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). Don’t assume that just because you clicked the locked button that all four doors are locked. Trust but verify as well.
- 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, high traffic areas whenever possible—never in the dark secluded area of the parking lot.
- Never leave your car unattended if it’s running—it’s hard to believe but it’s against the law.