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Top 5 Tips For Avoiding Car Crime

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Top 5 Tips For Avoiding Car Crime

Heidi Scott
27 October 2009

Although vehicle crime has fallen by more than 66% since its peak in 1995, almost 1.5 million vehicle-related thefts were recorded in 2007-08. Given that car crime accounts for 13% of all recorded crime in England and Wales, you cannot totally protect your car from criminal activity - especially if you're unlucky enough to live in one of the UK's top 20 car crime hotspots. However, there are a number of simple steps that you can take to minimise the risks:

1. Get equipped - If you happen to be in the market for a new or second-hand car, make sure that you buy one with an alarm (that alerts others to car crime as it's being committed) and an immobiliser (that prevents the engine from being started without the key, so the vehicle cannot be 'hotwired'). According to the Home Office, having security equipment on your car - especially an immobiliser - makes your vehicle more than ten times safer than a car without it. Some higher-specification cars have a tracker device fitted, which allows the police to locate the vehicle, once it has been activated. Alarms, immobilisers and trackers can all be retro-fitted but it's simpler to buy a car with them already in place and working. Alternatively, you could invest in a mechanical steering or gear lever lock and even a wheel clamp. Motoring shops also stock invisible anti-smash film for your windows, which will stop them being smashed right through, thwarting the 'smash and grab' raiders. Finally, locking wheel nuts are cheap, easy to fit and stop thieves from taking your wheels.

2. Make your mark - If you simply can't afford a decent alarm (or your old banger doesn't warrant the investment), consider buying some fake car alarm or immobiliser stickers. These are a surprisingly effective deterrent to the common car thief. Etching your vehicle registration number - or the last seven digits of your Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) - onto windows, windscreens and headlamps is another great way of keeping thieves away. And don't forget to mark all your electronic equipment, such as your car stereo and sat nav, with your registration number.

3. Don't be a sucker - If there's one thing that acts as a clue for a car criminal to possible goodies in the glove box, it's the suction cup marks left on the windscreen by sat navs and DAB radios. Such devices are rich pickings for thieves because the fact that they are mobile and universal makes them easy to exchange for cash. What's the answer to this problem? Simple: a little bit of elbow grease will rub away these telltale rings. Of course, you should also take your sat nav with you!

4. Park like a moth - Moths are attracted to light and the sensible motorist is too. Well-lit areas tend to have more passers-by and both the light and the people are real turn-offs for car thieves. When you're at home, park your car in the garage, if you have one, or driveway and always lock it. When using a public car park, look for one which is part of the police-approved Safer Parking scheme and displays the Park Mark® brand.

5. Think like a thief - Although not all car crime is opportunist, much of it is. The lesson is to take a moment to think about the state of your car when you leave it. Even if you're just popping into a shop for a moment, the fact is that it's easy to get distracted - by bumping into a friend or colleague, for example - so don't leave your car unlocked for a second. Equally important is not leaving valuables on view and preferably not leaving them in the car at all. Car criminals are experts at their game and need just seconds to commit a crime that may take you months to sort out. Even in the comfort of your home, you need to think carefully about security. If you leave your car keys on a hook or table on the hall, for example, they may be within reach of an opened wire coat hanger that's manoeuvred through the letterbox. Be especially careful if your vehicle is for sale - one common trick is for a thief to pose as a buyer and ask about its security systems. He uses this knowledge to return later and steal the car, so don't discuss security equipment in detail until you've got the cash from the sale in your pocket. Also be aware that thieves may set your alarm off a few times before actually stealing it, in the hope that you'll tire of these false alarms and simply switch the alarm off, making their crime much easier.

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