• Dec 31st 2010 at 6:00AM
  • 291

It takes less time for a professional thief to break into your car, start it up and drive away as it does for you to walk into 7-11, plunk down three bucks for a bagel and coffee and emerge to watch your ride recede into the distance. And don't presume your elderly clunker's immune; the most stolen vehicle of 2008, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau, was the 1994 Honda Accord.

"We know that thieves never miss an opportunity to make a quick buck by stealing a car," says Joe Wehrle, president and CEO of NICB. "They work weekends, nights and holidays and ironically, they are particularly busy on New Year's Day and Labor Day."

While there isn't any way to stop a crook who really wants your ride and has the tools and know-how to make it happen, the following tips can help your car become a less inviting target and slow down, discourage or actually prevent car theft.

Park in plain sight

Holiday Car Theft

Holiday Number of Thefts
New Year's Day 3,017
Labor Day 2,847
Halloween 2,727
President's Day 2,683
Memorial Day 2,599
Independence Day 2,584
Valentine's Day 2,389
Christmas Eve 1,841
Thanksgiving 1,806
Christmas Day 1,267
New Year's Eve 916

The holidays ranked by number of thefts reported to the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) for 2008.

Our natural inclination is to hide something we don't want anyone to steal, but for cars, visibility is the key to safety, say experts. Thieves prefer to work out of sight of people and electronic recording devices, so leave your car in a well-lit, populated area.

Take your keys---always.
If you think this tip falls into the "duh" section of car theft prevention, try Googling the phrase "keys in ignition" or similar and you'll see many trusting souls leave the equivalent of a sign reading "FREE CAR!" hanging from their ignition switches on a daily basis. Car theft is often a crime of opportunity, so shut yours off and pocket your keys even if you're only ducking into a convenience store.

Don't hide your keys anywhere within or outside the car.
You know those magnetic key holders you can buy to store your spare key? Leave it in your house on the fridge, not under bumpers, in the glove compartment or anywhere in the car. Thieves know all the hiding places you do, and probably a few more.

Use a variety of methods to slow would-be thieves.
Car alarms are ubiquitous and often go ignored. When used in tandem with other theft prevention methods, though, they will make a thief naturally try to work faster, and if he comes across other security measures, he may give up altogether and move on. Apply the emergency brake, turn your wheels hard left or right and set the car in "park" or in gear, making it more difficult for you to be quickly towed, and consider using a vehicle recovery system like LoJack or an engine immobilizer device such as Ravelco.

Disable your battery if parking long-term
A thief won't spend time trying to diagnose an apparent engine problem. Consider yanking one of the cable wires to your battery if you're leaving your car parked at an airport or anywhere else where it will sit unattended for more than a few days.

Sign valuable parts
Take the time to embed your Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) on the inside of your trunk, inside your doors, on your sound system components and any other pricey parts thieves like to chop. If you don't feel like doing it yourself, contact your local police precinct or even your insurance company, some of whom offer free VIN etchings.

Go east
California is the number one state for auto theft, according to the National Insurance Crime bureau, with the town of Modesto ranking #1 with 4,235 vehicles stolen in 2008.

The good news for all of us is that auto thefts were down almost 9% overall in 2008, according to the NICB, to less than one million a year in 2008. With foresight and preventive measures that don't take much time, you can help ensure you'll never have to experience that unique nausea familiar to anyone finding a grease spot where their car was parked.

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 8 Months Ago
      a simple sighn in the window works well for me,"nothing I own is worth your life!"
      • 8 Months Ago
      Drive a manual transmission with a failing clutch. I am nursing a bad clutch that will last at best another year. But its very hard to shift unless you know what to do. My other car has a fuel pump problem and i have wired with a switch because it was failing when hooked up to the wiring harness. So drive crap and you will hopefully be passed by thieves.
      • 8 Months Ago
      what i do is i put in a baby moniter on the floor of my van,also i have a great alarm,and also i use the club also,but the baby moniter is great because i put the other moniter on my night stand and when it makes a little sound it.WAKES UP MY GREAT SWEET GERMAN SHEPERD AND SH!! HITS THE FAN AND OFF IM UP RUNNING WITH THE {YOU NO WHAT}. also i park in the yard with a fence and a locked gate. but besides all that the baby moniter is a great tool to use also. please everbody should invest in one of those. by for now. PLUMBER.
      • 8 Months Ago
      It is astounding to me that no one, including the author, mentioned the simplest tip of all - Dont leave valuables in plain sight in the car! That includes the GPS, radio faceplate, laptop, cell phone, change in the ashtray, your luggage, your valuables, anything worth stealing. Just remove them or move them.
      • 8 Months Ago
      Deadly force is authorized to prevent the consequences of theft in Texas. If that were the standard across the nation, scumbag thieves would think twice before laying their lives on the line for a quick buck.
      • 8 Months Ago
      mir269 -- How long have you lived in Florida? Apparently you are not familiar with the, "No retreat" law, enacted in 2004. It gives citizens the legal right to react with deadly force to a threat, real or perceived. Of course, if one is criminally prosecuted for his actions, the burden of proof is on him.
      • 8 Months Ago
      RE Disable your battery if parking long-term - Consider yanking one of the cable wires to your battery if you’re leaving your car parked at an airport or anywhere else where it will sit unattended for more than a few days. This can and will probably totally screw up your car's electrical and computer software- resulting in poor gas mileage, etc if not properly recalibrated.. Trust me
      • 8 Months Ago
      Yo The article said "New Year's Day" and it is a holiday!
      • 8 Months Ago
      Don't think anyone has mentioned how important not to leave ANYTHING in your car. Thief might not get the car, but will thank you for the ipod, gps, laptop . When I worked in a high crime area we were advised to leave nothing in the car, including anything with address on it. Do you want the thief to ransack the car, then run over to your house, knowing you are at work? (this included not leaving your insurance card, as would only be a fixit ticket if you are stopped sometimes)
      • 8 Months Ago
      Californicate has the highest vehicle theft rate because we have the most illegal aliens (unregistered Democrats). Isn't that cultural diversity wonderful?
      • 8 Months Ago
      davidstarr2, Lets think reasonable now. How can you send in $10 a month and get 50 percent of your money back from a web site and this company stay in business. I think you just bought someone 3 gallons of gasoline that scammed you.
      • 8 Months Ago
      The most fun I have ever had is chaging that dumbass siren that nobody ever looks at or pays attention to, the new recording is out of the movie Short Circuit 2 -- number 5 plays stars and stripes forever and is telling people to look over here at the car thief and call the police. It is the funnist thing ever, and it does work! For fun I will set it off remotely and EVERYBODY looks right at it. Very effective.
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