Car theft has been a problem in the United States since cars were invented. A car or other vehicle is stolen in the United States every 28.8 seconds according to 2008 data from the FBI. The chances of your car being stolen in the U.S. are 1 in 210 according to data from federal agencies and the Insurance Information Institute. The odds vary geographically. The Northeast has the lowest incidence of vehicle thefts, about 9.8 percent, and the Midwest 18.2 percent. The South and West have the highest percentage of vehicle thefts, about 36 percent each. Your chances of having your car stolen are highest in urban areas.
The III reported dismal statistics in 2007 on apprehending car thieves, with an arrest rate of only 12.6 percent. Furthermore, the the National Insurance Crime Bureau reported that year that 41 percent of stolen vehicles were never recovered. If your car is stolen, there isn’t much you can do after the fact except call the police and file an insurance claim. Meanwhile, you won’t have transportation unless you either rent a car or go out and buy another one. It’s much better to take the following precautions to prevent car theft before it happens to you.
* Lock up. Newer cars are easier than ever to secure when you step away even for a few minutes, with automatic locks and remote key fobs. Close your sunroof and roll up your windows before you leave. Avoid starting your car to warm it up unless you’re sitting in it. An idling vehicle with the keys in the ignition takes mere seconds to steal and drive away.
* Parking is an issue, both at home and away. At home, use your garage and lock it up, especially night. On-street parking can be a haven for thieves, especially in high-crime areas, so choose spots with good lighting and a good flow of vehicle and pedestrian traffic.
* Avoid tempting thieves. Leaving an extra key somewhere in the vehicle or attached to the frame is asking to get your car stolen, because crooks know where to look. Your registration and insurance papers are another factor that can make a thief’s job that much easier–not only can he grab your car, but he can steal your identity. Instead, make copies of the papers and hand out a set to each person in your family that drives. Finally, don’t leave your valuables in your car while it’s parked. Many insurance companies have stopped paying claims for items like cell phones and music players that were stolen from vehicles, and they’re too great a temptation for thieves.
* If you want to add an extra shield of protection, a number of devices are available that can go a long way toward making your car theftproof.
Car security comes in many types and price ranges. At the most basic level, a simple steering wheel lock or brake pedal lock is an inexpensive way to secure your vehicle and is visible to thieves who might be sizing your vehicle up.
A car alarm is a highly effective way to chase thieves away from your car and alert law enforcement in the area. An alarm system is simply a sensing device attached to noisemakers like sirens and horns. Sophisticated alarm systems go beyond the basic door trigger switch found in low-end systems and use motion detectors, sound sensors that pick up the pitch of glass breaking, air pressure detectors that know when a car door is open, and even sensors that know when your vehicle is being driven up a ramp onto a thief’s flatbed trailer.
The kill switch is a relatively new development in vehicle security. These anti-theft devices work by keeping your car from starting unless you supply the correct inputs. Special ignition keys that release a radio signal to unlock your car’s starting system are especialy popular. Other lockout devices may disable your car’s fuel or electrical system while you’re away.
Tracking devices can use either the cars onboard GPS system or radiofrequency technology to track your cars whereabouts after its stolen and increase your chances of getting it back. Some insurance companies offer their customers discounts on tracking devices as well as a premium discount for using these technologies.
Car thieves love the Cadillac Escalade, the Hummer, and other big, luxurious SUVs because they can be resold for so much money. The 2005 and newer Dodge Charger is another favorite of crooks. If you’re shopping for a new car, keep in mind that a small car is one-eighth as likely to be stolen as an SUV. The all-time least popular vehicle with car thieves is the Volvo S70.