Car Theft

How to secure your car in the US

Car theft is rampant in the US, where a car is stolen on average every 20 seconds and thefts from motor vehicles run into tens of millions. If you’re driving anything other than a worthless heap you should have comprehensive insurance, which includes cover for theft.

It’s wise to have your car fitted with an alarm, immobiliser (system interrupter) or other anti-theft device, plus a visible deterrent, such as a steering or transmission shift lock (many new cars are fitted with door dead locks and sophisticated alarm systems as standard equipment). This is important if you own a car that’s desirable to car thieves, which includes most new sports and luxury models, often stolen by professional crooks to order.

A good security system won’t prevent someone breaking into your car (which usually takes most crooks a matter of seconds) or even prevent your car being stolen, but it at least makes it more difficult and may persuade a thief to look for an easier target.

Radios, tape and CD players attract a lot of (the wrong) attention in most cities (e.g. New York), particularly in expensive foreign cars. Often drivers put a sign in their car windows proclaiming ‘No Radio’ (or ‘No Valuables’, ‘Trunk is Empty’ and ‘Doors Open’), to deter thieves from breaking in to steal them.

If you buy an expensive stereo system, get one with a removable unit or with a removable control panel (which you can pop in a pocket). However, never forget to remove it, even when stopping for a few minutes. Cover an empty slot with a dummy cover, so that it appears that no radio was installed; otherwise a crook may break in and look for the removed unit.

Storing valuables

When leaving your car unattended, store any valuables (including clothes) out of sight or in the boot (trunk) if you’re unable to take them with you. This shouldn’t be done immediately after parking your car in some areas, where it isn’t wise to be seen putting things in the boot. Boots aren’t a safe place to hide belongings unless fitted with a protective steel plate or you have a steel safe installed inside the boot.

Don’t leave your car papers in your car, as this not only helps a thief to sell it quickly, but also hinders its recovery (particularly if you don’t have a copy of the papers). If possible, avoid parking in long-term car parks, as these are favourite hunting grounds for car thieves. When parking overnight or when it’s dark, park in a well-lit area, which may help deter car thieves.

If your car is stolen (or anything is stolen from it) report it to the police in the precinct where it was stolen (but don’t expect them to find it). You can report it by telephone, but must go to the station to complete a report. Report a theft to your insurance company as soon as possible.

It’s now possible to subscribe to a service that combines global positioning satellite (GPS) technology with an integrated mobile phone to allow police to locate your car (and, one hopes, the thieves) within minutes of it being reported as stolen or missing. The same service can also provide custom directions when you’re lost and send help to find you when your car breaks down, as well as unlocking your car for you remotely if you’ve lost your keys.

This article is an extract from Living and Working in America. Click here to get a copy now.

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