How to Prevent Break-Ins and Auto Crimes
Unfortunately, almost everyone with a vehicle has to deal with a break-in at one point or another. Sometimes there’s nothing you can do to prevent it, but there are definitely steps you can take to reduce your chances of being a target. Follow these tips to help ensure your car isn’t the one that’s singled out:
Never leave your car running
As tempting as it can be to leave the car running while you run a 10-second errand, doing so is practically an invitation to passing thieves. Because this is a common cause of vehicles being stolen, it is illegal to leave your car running and unattended in British Columbia. Even if a thief chooses not to steal your car, it takes them seconds to help themselves to your stereo or anything else immediately available.
Always lock your doors and close your windows
One of the easiest ways to deter thieves from breaking into your vehicle is simply by locking your doors and closing your windows while parked. Even if your car is just left for a moment in a seemingly safe location, it’s a good idea to get into the habit of double checking that your doors are locked, even when parked in front of your home, in your driveway or garage.
A thief can break into your car and flee the scene in under 30 seconds. Often less time than it takes to return a library book or pick up your take-out order. Unfortunately, this immediate turnaround time means that alarm systems don’t necessarily discourage them.
Keep your car as visible as possible
Thieves target cars parked in isolated places to reduce the risk of witnesses. If possible, stick to parking in busy parking lots and places with lots of foot traffic. If it’s after dark, look for well-lit parking spots underneath street lamps or on bustling streets.
Hide and conceal all traces of valuables
Not giving thieves a reason to break into your car is key to preventing break-ins. If a potential thief sees nothing in your car, they won’t have a reason to break in. Even so, what you might consider to be of little value might be enough reason for a thief to break a window and reach in. Amateur thieves will look for any reason to break into a car, such as loose change, shopping bags, sunglasses, sports equipment and backpacks or briefcases.
It’s best to avoid keeping valuables in your car period. If you absolutely must, stow them out of sight before reaching your destination, as experienced car thieves are known to stake out parking lots before choosing a target. It’s always a good idea to keep a blanket or towel in your car to cover exposed items if you can’t hide them under seats or in the trunk.
In some cases, even evidence that expensive items might be in the vehicle is enough encouragement for a thief to break in. Take care to conceal power cords and GPS windshield mounts.
Install (or fake) an anti-theft device
If you can afford to invest in an anti-theft system, this added measure may help hinder thieves and will often send them looking for an easier target. Always display the alarm system sticker to alert them of the extra security. If investing in the system itself is outside of your means, you can purchase dummy stickers to display which give the appearance of additional security. Another workaround to investing in extra security is to purchase a blinking light that fastens to your dashboard. These fake alarms are available at most automotive stores and give the appearance of an active alarm system.
Make your stereo system less appealing
Given there is a flourishing black market for car stereo systems, the safest way to protect yours is by removing and hiding the faceplate of the stereo when leaving your car (especially if it’s an expensive stereo). Even better, remove the entire stereo and hide it in the glove box if your car will be parked for a long period of time.
At the end of the day, stay alert and trust your instincts. If you see any suspicious characters, alert an attendant or the police. If you witness a break-in, follow these steps:
- Call 9-1-1
- Report any defining features of the thief (age, ethnicity, height, tattoos, body type, piercings, attire).
- Note what direction they take when fleeing the scene and alert the police.