How to Prevent Vehicle Burglaries

Side window of a car is smashed by a thiefAuto-burglaries are not the same as someone stealing your car (motor vehicle theft). The auto burglar is usually more interested in what’s inside the vehicle than the vehicle itself. These are typically smash and grab type crimes. It’s where opportunistic thieves prowl the streets choosing a house to break in or a vehicle. In most cases, the auto-burglar will not break into a vehicle unless they can see something worth stealing through the windows. Needless to say, losses are avoidable with a little consideration by the vehicle owner. The way to prevent crimes of opportunity like this is to remove the “opportunity.”

NOTE: You can jump to any part of this post by clicking the links in the table of contents

Table of Contents

  1. The 30 Second Crime
  2. Alarming Facts
  3. Vehicle Thefts
  4. Vehicle Security
  5. Common Sense Guidance

The 30 Second Crime

In law enforcement circles they refer to vehicle break-ins as the 30 second crime. The reason for this is obvious; it only takes 30 seconds, or less, to get in, grab what’s on view, and get out. If access to the vehicle was easy, the thief might also scout around for a few more seconds. They will then look for other valuables in the usual hiding places. You know the ones, under the seats, between items of clothing, etc. Surprisingly, victims of auto burglary do not always change their ways after an incident. Most people are super careful in the days and weeks after the crime of course, though this is short lived. It’s never too long before the victims slip back into their old careless ways.

Alarming Facts

If a thief has never broken into your vehicle and run away with valuables, it’s either because:

  1. You’re careful and never leave valuables in your car (or on display)
  2. You’ve been very lucky up till now

Here are some alarming facts that we should all be aware of when it comes to preventing and protecting our valuables when we’re out and about. These are the findings of a motor vehicle theft survey conducted by the National Insurance Crime Bureau.

  • 40 percent of auto owners don’t hide their valuables (especially for short stops)
  • 50 percent leave mail in their vehicle
  • 25 percent leave a purse or wallet in the car
  • 33 percent leave bank statements and other documents in the car

The loss of valuables and important documents aside, these victims also put themselves at risk of another crime. If you haven’t guessed it yet, it’s identity theft, which is a huge business in the US.

Vehicle Thefts

Having valuables stolen from your vehicle is bad enough. Having your vehicle stolen with valuables still inside is a double whammy. Here are some facts about vehicle theft that may surprise you.[1]

  • Fact #1: One in five stolen vehicles are not locked and have keys still in the ignition
  • Fact #2: More than 50 percent of vehicles are stolen from residential areas
  • Fact #3: Over two thirds of all auto thefts occur after dark (usually later in the evening)
  • Fact #4: Cars parked in “unattended” lots are the most vulnerable of all[2]

Vehicle Security

Vehicle security shares some similarities with home burglar deterrents in that it’s usually inadequate. Even when we think we have taken necessary precautions, we probably haven’t. See, a car burglar or vehicle thief is usually one step ahead of most people. In this respect they’re smarter than we are insomuch that they’re professionals at what they do. We, on the other hand, are not professional security experts. This makes us more vulnerable. We can also get a false sense of safety by implementing a few security measures. More often than not we will read some packaging on some security gadget and that will be enough for us. It shouldn’t be!

Car thieves can spot vulnerabilities that we ourselves just don’t see. For these reasons I recommend everyone takes a little time getting to understand personal security better. It doesn’t take long to become familiar. And once you do, you get to prevent the loss, inconvenience and upsets that these crimes can cause. Residential vehicle theft is a common crime. So are the smash and grab type criminal acts that take valuables out of vehicles. This is a menace that’s not going to go away overnight either. Therefore, it’s up to us to look at ways to help prevent these crimes from happening in the first place.[3]

Common Sense Guidance

I don’t mean for this heading to sound patronizing because that’s not my intention at all. The problem is that both vehicle owners and their passenger’s do often make silly mistakes. These are avoidable slipups that only serve to encourage opportunistic car thieves. This is certainly the case with people who have never fallen victim to such crimes. To put that another way, they become complacent and think that such things only happen to other people. The fact is they can happen to the best of us, usually when we least expect them to.

Common sense precautions we can all take to prevent auto break-ins include:

  • Don’t leave valuables in your car or at least keep them well out of sight – everything!
  • Store all shopping bags in the trunk (don’t walk away from the vehicle after doing this)
  • Unload your shopping and valuable as soon as you get home
  • Lock the “in car” trunk-opening facility whenever you leave your vehicle
  • If your stereo/CD-player has a removable faceplate, make sure you remove it every time
  • Always park in busy, well-lit areas whenever possible
  • Lock “ALL” doors and windows even if you’re only away for a brief spell
  • If you have a vehicle alarm and/or anti-theft devices make sure you use them
  • Note that tinted windows do not prevent vehicle burglaries (hide your valuables!)

These common sense rules save a lot of vehicle break-ins from happening. It’s by ignoring these simple rules that most crimes get to take place. Remember, crooks don’t have a lot of time to commit their offences. The more you do to disrupt their flow, the safer your vehicle becomes.





About Mark Bickmore

Hi, my name is Mark Bickmore. I'm an Engineer, who has a keen interest in home security and keeping my family, property and valuables safe from burglars. This website was set up to help me explore the research, facts and myths about burglars and burglary. Please feel free to contact me should you have any questions, comments or suggestions.

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