It is normal to feel uncomfortable when parking your car on a dark street in an unfamiliar part of town. But your vehicle might be just as vulnerable in an airport parking lot or the driveway of your suburb community. In this article, we investigate hidden truths behind car theft to help you protect yourself.
The most common cars are the most vulnerable
Crime statistics run lockstep with car sales data. The more common your vehicle, the more likely it will be targeted. The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) creates an annual Hot Wheels Report that lists the top stolen vehicles in the United States. Here are the top ten from the most recent report:
- Ford Pickup (full size) (2006)
- Honda Civic (2000)
- Chevrolet Pickup (full size) (2004)
- Honda Accord (1997)
- Toyota Camry (2007)
- Nissan Altima (2015)
- Toyota Corolla (2018)
- Dodge pickup (full size) (2001)
- GMC pickup (full size) (2018)
- Honda CR-V (2001)
Stealing a vehicle is like any other skill. Thieves improve with practice. The more familiar your car is, the more likely a thief has experience with its ignition system and locking.
Older cars draw attention
One thing you might notice is how few new vehicles make the top ten list. Some of this might be that newer cars are more likely to be parked in a garage. But mainly, thieves target older vehicles because they are easier to steal.
“In the late 2000’s, most vehicles started to come equipped with more advanced ignition systems such as chipped keys that need to be in proximity of the dash for the car to start,” says Marc Hinch, founder of stolen911.com and auto theft investigator. “Many vehicles from before this time are easy to start if you know how to manipulate the ignition.”
It’s not always about the car
Many thieves are more interested in what you leave in your car than driving off with it. For every outright car theft, there are at least two reported break-ins. On more than 50% of car break-ins, police report that victims left their doors unlocked.
Whereas car theft once required a certain skill level, getting into the business has never been easier. Just walk around a parking lot, look through windows, and pull up on door handles. “You might as well put a sticker on the window that says, ‘come take my stuff,'” said an exasperated Alex Villanueva, the Los Angeles County sheriff.
If you regularly park your vehicle outside, there is a good solid chance that a thief has checked to see if your door was locked. So, protect yourself from the easiest pickings and lock up when you are away.
Car thieves love holidays
A confluence of factors leads to a significant spike in vehicle-related crimes on holidays. First, more thieves have the day off from their day job. Second, more people leave their cars parked in strange places overnight and certainly leave their guards down more while celebrating.
Do you need proof? The average number of daily car thefts in 2019 was 1,950, and here is how that compares with eight major holidays:
- New Year’s Day (2,320)
- Labor Day (2,222)
- President’s Day (2,204)
- New Year’s Eve (2,201)
- Halloween (2,191)
- Valentine’s Day (2,174)
- Memorial Day (2,162)
- Christmas Eve (2,011)
*One exception is Christmas Day (1,580) where it seems thieves are concerned with drawing Santa’s attention.
The lesson? Be vigilant during the holidays.
Public parking is a gold mine for car thieves
Malls, stadiums, airports, gyms, and parking garages are routine targets for thefts. Professional thieves can inconspicuously wander amongst hundreds of vehicles, looking to take advantage of the least diligent owners.
Think of parking in public as leaving your car at a buffet line for criminals. The best way to protect yourself is by avoiding the outskirts of a lot. Instead, park as close to the building as possible, where crowds are most likely, and surveillance cameras are visible.
Suburban communities are perfect targets
It is all too common to hear a victim say, “This is a safe, quiet neighborhood. I didn’t think I could have my car stolen here.” Thieves target safe, quiet neighborhoods for this very reason. As a result, people leave their guards down.
Only in a “safe” neighborhood would you leave your car running in the driveway with the doors locked. Likewise, you’re more likely to sleep comfortably with an unlocked car on a quiet street than on a busy city block. And that is precisely why thieves are targeting your neighborhood.
Car alarms and theft deterrents work
People in all occupations look for the path of least resistance. When a thief has choices, why would they take more risks? A criminal is looking for quick and easy. The last thing they want is to draw attention and exposure.
In an article by Edmunds titled “Confessions of a Car Thief,” an anonymous former car thief shared his thoughts on choosing targets. “I would go for a car parked in a carport or an underground garage — somewhere I could hide in the dark. If a car were in a lighted area, I wouldn’t go for it. I also wouldn’t go for any car with an alarm. I could have, but personally, I went for whatever was easiest.”
At Keep, we designed our car alarm, The Knight, to be as visible as possible. Our device flashes red and chirps at a potential intruder before they even lift the door handle. Should they open the door, our device draws attention with an alarm as loud as an ambulance siren.
So, wherever you park, and even if you forget to lock your doors, we designed our device to convince thieves to look elsewhere.