Car theft appears to be on the rise nationally. The National Insurance Crime Bureau says anti-theft technologies that had been keeping car thieves at bay in recent years have led criminals to become more clever, preying on rental car fleets or using falsified ownership titles.
Locally, stolen auto was just one of two categories to increase (by one incident) in the otherwise sterling 2016 UMB Police Force crime report. So what steps can we take to deter car thieves?
Some of the following are just plain common sense. For instance, lock the car. Don’t leave it running with the keys inside. Even the stars of “Dumb and Dumber” could grasp those tips. Yet experts say 50 percent of all vehicles stolen are left unlocked.
Other safety tips are more subtle.
When purchasing auto stereo equipment, choose items that can be removed and locked in the trunk. Out of sight is out of mind for car thieves. This also applies to a laptop or gym bag left in plain sight on your passenger seat. It’s a temptation some thieves can’t resist.
And “stay aware of your surroundings,” urges Cpl. J.R. Jones, safety awareness officer in UMB’s Department of Public Safety. “Just like we tell pedestrians to keep their heads up and notice what’s going on around them, the same applies to drivers. Be aware of cars around you on the road. Know the route you are going before leaving the garage.”
There have been cases of “bump and rob” in Baltimore where carjackers bump your car from the rear, then steal it when you get out to look for damage. If another car bumps yours and you feel threatened, drive to a populated area or, if you have a cell phone, call 911 or the UMB Police Force (6-6882 on campus). If you do get out of your vehicle, turn it off and take your keys or fob with you. If confronted with a “your keys or your life” demand, turn the keys over.
“There are other cars out there but there is only one you,” Jones says.
Here are some other tips to deter car thieves:
- Park in busy, well-lit areas
- If using valet parking, only turn over your ignition key (or better yet, your valet key that doesn’t open other parts of your car)
- Never hide a second set of keys in your car
- Completely close car windows
- Park your vehicle with the wheels turned toward the curb
- Always use your emergency brake
- Do you have a garage at home? If so, use it.
These tips don’t guarantee a theft won’t occur, but they do improve your odds. For more safety tips, visit the UMB Public Safety website.
– Chris Zang