Over the next few months, even as gas prices are rising, a record number of Americans who have been cooped up during the pandemic, are expected to take to the roads for their summer break – and car thieves are predicted to be busier than ever.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, one vehicle was stolen every 44 seconds in 2019 for a total of nearly 722,000 vehicles. Since then, the data shows car thefts have been increasing, every year, in every major city and summer is a prime time for these crimes.
Not only is having your vehicle – or valuables in it – stolen a quick way to put a serious damper on your vacation, it’s costly. NHTSA estimates that car thefts cost consumers more than $6 billion in 2019.
So, what can you do to protect your car and your belongings – whether it’s during a vacation or any other time?
- Keep your doors locked – Simple enough, but this is the first defense in deterring a would-be-thief.
- Don’t let your car run when it is unoccupied or leave your key inside the vehicle – A thief can easily break a window and take off.
- Don’t keep spare keys near or inside the vehicle (even if you think they are well-hidden). – Some people keep spares underneath the vehicle, behind the tire, or in the glove box. These are common hiding places criminals know to look.
- Make sure all windows are up/closed – Again, simple enough but leaving a window down can make for easy access to items inside the vehicle.
- Don’t leave valuables inside the vehicle – Thefts tend to be crimes of opportunity. If they don't see anything of value, they may move on to the next car. If you move valuables from the vehicle’s interior to the trunk to keep them safe, do it at home instead of in a public place, as thieves could be watching for people moving items to their trunk.
- Consider installing a car alarm – Most modern vehicles sound an alarm if someone tries to gain access to the vehicle without the key. If this is not the case, consider installing a car alarm system.
- Consider installing a tracking system – In case the vehicle is stolen, a GPS tracking system would aid in recovering it.
- Consider installing a vehicle immobilizer system – These systems include “smart keys,” kill switches and wireless ignition authentication. These are designed to basically disable your vehicle when not in use, making it almost impossible for a criminal to take off with it.
- Park in well-lit and well-trafficked areas – Thieves will generally look for a vehicle in an area where their actions won't be observed.
- Be Alert – Be aware of your surroundings when choosing a parking spot. Do not forget the basics when you leave the vehicle – locking doors, closing windows and making sure no valuables are left in sight.