Steer Clear of Car Break-Ins

One Saturday, Jenny stopped by the mall for some afternoon shopping. The parking lot was packed, but she found a space at the very back of the lot. After she ate some lunch and shopped for a few hours, Jenny strolled back to her car—only to find that her passenger window was broken, and her laptop and iPod were missing. Her heart plummeted into her stomach, and she wasn’t sure what to do.

If you’ve ever walked into a parking lot or your own driveway to discover a thief has broken into your car, you’re probably all too familiar with that terrible sinking feeling. Fortunately, there are some steps you can take to stop car robbers in their tracks. These criminals go for the simple jobs, so they usually choose vehicles that are parked in remote areas and have valuables in plain view.

Don’t make yourself an easy target. Follow these five easy tips to steer clear of car break-ins:

Tip #1: Choose your parking spot carefully.

Car thieves generally target vehicles that are parked in remote areas so they don’t run the risk of getting caught red-handed. That’s why you should always park in a busy, well-lit area where your car is easily seen from the store or restaurant. Try to avoid parking between two larger vehicles or up against bushes, dumpsters or fences.

Tip #2: Hide your loot.

If you were to peer into your car windows right now, what would you see? A hand-held GPS attached to the windshield? An iPod plugged into your radio? A camera on the passenger seat? A laptop in the floorboard?

If so, you’ve made yourself an easy target for car thieves. Car robbers would be salivating over a car with so many treasures in plain view. That’s why you should hide all of your electronics, shopping bags and valuables under the seats or lock them in the trunk—or better yet take them into the store with you!

Tip #3: Lock the doors and roll up the windows.

This may seem like a no-brainer—but police departments across the nation receive countless reports every year from drivers who have items stolen from their unlocked cars. Even if you’re just running into the store for a minute to pay for gas or pick up your pizza, you should always roll up the windows and lock the door. (If you like to take your dog for rides, have an extra key made. That way, you can roll up the windows and keep the air conditioning on for your pup while you run into the store with your second key.)

Tip #4:  Don’t store your home address in your GPS.

You’ve probably heard the horror stories or read the elaborate sensationalized email forwards about car thieves who steal GPS devices from cars. Once they snatch the device, they find the driver’s address stored under “Home.” They then rush to the house and clear out the place.

Although it sounds like the stuff of urban legends, this has actually happened to some drivers. And it’s entirely possible that this kind of thing could happen again. That’s why you should not store your home address in your GPS device. Instead, store the address of a nearby intersection or even your neighborhood grocery store under “Home.” Better yet, take your hand-held GPS device with you instead of leaving it in the car.

Tip #5: Install a car alarm.

The last thing a car thief wants to do is draw attention to himself. That’s why car alarms are so effective. If your car starts beeping and wailing as soon as they try to break into it, they won’t stick around for very long. Many car alarm systems also come with a “panic button” for your key fob—which could come in handy if a suspicious stranger approaches you while you’re entering your car.

When it comes to protecting your car from break-ins, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Take these five simple steps, and you’ll be much less likely to become a car thief target. If a thief does break into your car, report the theft to your local police department immediately.