Car Theft Prevention
For victims, motor vehicle theft can be a stressful and costly crime to experience. While savvy vehicle owners can take steps to minimize their risk of car theft, many people still fall victim to car theft or a vehicle break-in. According to data from the FBI, there were more than 700,000 motor vehicle thefts in 2019 nationwide. These resulted in a total loss of $6.4 billion and an average cost of $8,886 per incident.
Keeping the thieves away isn't always a difficult task. Following some common-sense tips and working to make your car a less desirable target may be all it takes to prevent a motor vehicle theft before it starts. To understand what to do and answer other questions like, does homeowners insurance cover theft from a car, read more below about how to prevent a theft in the first place or respond to one in the unfortunate event it occurs.
Is Motor Vehicle Theft Common?
While you're hopefully never the victim of this type of crime, vehicle thefts and break-ins frequently happen around the United States. The Insurance Information Institute (iii) reports that vehicle thefts have generally trended downward over the last two and half decades. However, 2020 saw a spike in thefts related to the COVID pandemic. The increase is attributed to various economic and social factors, including large-scale layoffs, economic downturn and shifts in public safety funding, among other causes.
National Insurance Crime Bureau data indicates that the top five metropolitan areas with the highest rates of vehicle thefts are:
- Bakersfield, California
- Yuba City, California
- Denver-Aurora-Lakewood, Colorado
- Odessa, Texas
- San Francisco-Oakland-Berkeley, California
Overall, the states with the highest rate of motor vehicle theft were all among the most densely populated, too. They include Colorado, California and Missouri at the top of the list, followed by New Mexico and Oregon. The states with the fewest motor vehicle thefts in 2020 were Vermont, Maine, Wyoming, New Hampshire and Rhode Island.
Making Your Car Less Desirable to Criminals
While some determined criminals will break into cars and steal them regardless of what law-abiding citizens do, you can take a few steps to make your car less of a target. Anything that makes your car stand out from the crowd or appear more distinct or valuable might make it more appealing to thieves.
“Shopping bags, backpacks, briefcases, Amazon boxes or other items that look like they may contain high-value items should be secured in the trunk before leaving your vehicle and ideally before you park," said Thomas Freismuth, who has a background in law enforcement and is the founder of CALSEC Protective Services, a private security company in San Diego.
The next time you're shopping for a new or used vehicle, keep in mind that vehicles that appear expensive may bring unwanted attention. While fear of car theft shouldn't necessarily lead you to pick one car over another when you've found the ideal vehicle for your needs, safety and security should be part of your thought process. Look at safety beyond seatbelts and airbags, including car alarms, GPS tracking, automatic video recording and other security features.
Car-Related Crime Prevention Tips
Hiding valuables out of sight is just one of several ways to protect your car. Freismuth shared additional tips to help vehicle owners avoid car-related crimes from the start.
“Car break-ins are crimes of opportunity," he said, "meaning if a criminal sees something that looks like an easy score, they could quickly smash your window and be gone with your property in a matter of seconds." So he recommends parking as close to front entrances as possible and parking in well-lit areas if it's dark outside when you leave your car or if it will be when you return.
“Remember to check your surroundings and be aware when you get out of your car or into your car," he said. “If something doesn't look right or feel right, park somewhere else if you are arriving or go back inside and ask for security to escort you to your vehicle if you are leaving."
But even if you're parking in your driveway or a familiar parking garage, stay alert to your surroundings. Also, don't forget the basics, like locking your car doors and bringing all keys into the home with you at night.
What to Do if Your Car is Stolen?
If your car is stolen, contact law enforcement right away. They may be able to put out an alert to local officers and find your vehicle before it's taken out of the area. But that's not all you can do. Thanks to newer technologies, you may be able to track and help locate your car.
Freismuth points to an optimistic statistic that, in most cases, police will recover the vehicle. In 2020, for example, the California Highway Patrol reported that police successfully recovered almost 90 percent of stolen vehicles. “The most commonly stolen vehicles now are Ford and Chevy pickup trucks followed by Honda Civic and Accord models," Freismuth said.
Some vehicles include onboard tracking devices through services like On-Star. For a do-it-yourself approach, you can install an ODB-II device—a small device that plugs into your car's computer port—that has a GPS feature and tracking capabilities. You can also place a cellular tracking device in your car to always know where it is and relay that information to the police if your car isn't where you left it.
Homeowners insurance may provide limited coverage for the contents of your vehicle in the event of a break-in.
Insurance is the Best Car Theft Backup Plan
While you hopefully never have to deal with the frustration of a car break-in or theft, your vehicle could be randomly targeted even when you've taken the best steps to keep thieves at bay. Just like an unplanned car accident, that's where your vehicle insurance kicks in to help. With a comprehensive vehicle coverage policy, you may qualify for a payout that helps you get back on the road with a replacement if your car is stolen and not recovered.
If you're unsure whether your coverage is adequate, connect with a Westfield agent today to discuss your options and what would happen if your car was stolen. You can rest easy knowing you have financial protection from vehicle-related crimes when you have sufficient coverage.
Safety Tips for Car Owners to Prevent Break-Ins