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The best way to avoid a cockroach
problem is not to leave things
out that attract them.

Car Crimes

On this page:
#1: Trunk | #2: Under Seat | #3: Radio Faceplate | #4: CD Player Trunk | #5: Lock Doors | #6: Look Into Cars | #7: Take It With You

Young criminals and the homeless often will walk through parking lots and check car doors.

In large, open parking lots, a criminal, by simply moving between parked cars and checking with both left and right hand, can test the doors of up to 20 cars in the time it takes to walk straight across five parking rows. It is not unusual in certain neighborhoods to see such a person walk down the length of the block and check the doors of parked cars. This is not a long, drawn out process. All it takes is reaching out and trying the handle as the person walks past. But once you know what this looks like, it is incredibly obvious. Unfortunately, many people make it very easy for this kind of theft by forgetting to lock their car doors.

If there is not an unlocked door, the fastest and most common way to break into a car is to smash the window. Anything from a glove-covered hand, jacket-wrapped arm, a rock or a hammer can be used. In short, there are never a lack of options when it comes to breaking windows. While heavy safety glass is mandatory in front and rear windshields, the side windows are often less resistant to impact. This makes shattering them easier than you might think.

Busted windows are expensive. You not only have to replace the window, but -- unless you use the mobile installers -- there is a cost for the missed time from work and the inconvenience of leaving your car at the shop.

The real damage once a car is entered often occurs to your dashboard or steering wheel since many criminals go for either the stereo or air bags. A criminal will cause thousands of dollars of damage to steal a radio he will only get $10 for.

Tip #1 Put It in the Trunk
There is no habit that will do more for saving you the cost of replacing a window and expensive items.

Reason: Criminals seldom break into something if they are not sure of the rewards. An item left on the seat is an obvious reward. While there are certain areas so bad that criminals will pop the trunk just to look, most often "out of sight is out of mind." If there is nothing obviously to be gained, they will keep on looking until they find another car where there is something obvious to steal.

As you’re putting items in the trunk, however, look around. If someone is intently watching you, take the item with you.

Tip #2 Put It Under the Front Seat.
This habit, while not as good as the trunk, still gets items out of sight.

Reason: The same out of sight, out of mind rule applies here. If an item is too big to put under the seat, cover it. In bad areas, use newspaper. Don’t use clothing or blankets. Often the homeless will break into a car to steal those and then take the item under them, as well.

If you often are in a "packed urban environment" -- where you find yourself in gridlock or slow traffic conditions through older parts of town with little room between the street and buildings -- at the very least put expensive and hard to replace items on the floor when you are driving. Put them tightly against the seat if possible.

The reason is: In those "cramped, valley-like conditions," you are at risk from the most aggressive type of "smash and dash" thief. The criminal approaches from the blindspot on your passenger side while you are stuck in traffic and throws a brick through the window. Reaching in, he grabs a purse, camera bag or other such expensive item and darts away between buildings and out of your sight. This kind of attack is very common tactic among the more aggressive bums, junkies and youthful offenders.

First off, the explosion of your window being hit by a brick and shattering tends to overwhelm the average person. Second, a dirty bum or street punk unexpectedly lunging at you in the "safety" of your car combines with the first to make a situation that even a trained professional would be hard pressed to react to quickly enough. Third, after grabbing whatever he has seen, the offender turns and runs down a "rabbit hole" and is quickly out of sight. And, although you are mad, no sane person should go chasing him down those dark ways. Finally, you are left with a choice: abandon your car to pursue or let him go. Choosing to pursue him not only would piss off the people behind you, but leaves your car susceptible to theft and vandalism while you attempt to pursue the criminal

This crime tends to be more of an older, downtown, East Coast and skid row area phenomenon. It is less likely in newer, more open places where cars have more mobility and are less likely to be slowed to a stop or crawl. Return to top of page

Tip #3 Get a Radio with a Faceplate or One that Pops Out. This also requires getting into the habit of taking the plate off (even if you leave it in the car) or popping the stereo and hiding it under the seat

Reason: This will ensure that it's not worth the criminal's time to break in. Stereos without faceplates are useless. A gaping hole means the radio has been taken out. It might not be in the car at all. Why waste the time breaking in on a "maybe," when the car next to you has definite rewards?

Tip #4 Get the Multiple CD Player that Goes in Your Trunk
The average person doesn't realize exactly how little it takes to prompt a thief to break in.

Reason: A large CD or tape collection is an appealing target for young criminals. They won't hesitate to throw a rock through your window to find out if there is any interesting music in what is -- now -- his new collection.

Another good idea is to "rip" copies of your CDs on your computer. Aside from mixing and matching music, you can leave the original CD at home and carry copies in your car. If those are stolen, you are only out the cost of writable CDs

Tip #5 Lock Your Door When You Leave the Car.
It is amazing how often people forget.

Reason: Many budding young criminals wander through parking lots and check car doors. Unless you know what they are doing, it looks like they are just walking through the lot. It is not a specific targeting of your vehicle: It’s just that your car was in a line of vehicles that were checked. If your car was left unlocked, it will be ransacked. Even if they don’t take anything, the mess they make is disturbing. Add to this: If they don’t find anything, they often will slash your upholstery and destroy your dashboard as petty revenge against your not having left anything for them to steal. Return to top of page

Tip #6 Walk Around a Parking Lot and Look into Cars.
You will be amazed at what is left sitting in plain view of criminals.

Reason: After a few trips through parking lots, you will begin to see why criminals seldom bother breaking into cars that have nothing to steal. There is literally a buffet of cars with expensive items left on seats, and often these cars are unlocked!

Make it easier for the criminal to steal from these people and not from you.

Tip #7 In Really Bad Neighborhoods, Take It with You.
Don't leave it in the car

Reason: In really bad neighborhoods, lowlifes just walk up with a crowbar and pop the trunk to see if there is anything worth stealing. With most cars with trunk releases, it is a small matter to smash the window, and pop the trunk.

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