7 Steps for Preventing Auto Theft

Professional car thieves with power tools can strip a car down to its skeleton in just a few minutes. Find out what you can do to make your car less appealing to crooks.

I once saw the Philadelphia Police Department’s Major Crimes Auto Theft Unit sponsor a demonstration by the Allstate insurance company outside of City Hall in Philadelphia.

Called “Stripped in Seconds,” three Allstate technicians went to work, stripping down a 1999 Honda Civic in front of a crowd of more than 200 people. A large digital clock was displayed and counted down the time it took the three technicians to strip the car down to a shell.

Brett Ludwig, the Allstate emcee, told the assembled crowd that car parts are worth more than the whole car, which is why car thieves generally strip down stolen cars. The stripped parts are then sold on the black market.

I watched in awe as the three technicians stripped the Honda of its hood, truck, front and rear bumpers, and the doors. Then they went to work on the interior of the car. Using only hand tools, they pulled out the seats and then dismantled the headlights and the taillights. They then jacked up the car and removed the tires.

In less than five minutes, the remnant of a car looked as if it belonged in a combat zone. The technicians were given a round of applause. Ludwig then said that professional thieves with power tools can do the same job in half the time. That news was not encouraging.

A car is an essential tool for many small business owners. Even if the business owner is fully insured, the theft of their car is a huge business setback, as well as a personal violation.

Allstate offers the below seven steps to help prevent auto theft:
  • Lock your car and take your keys – One out of every five vehicles stolen had the keys in it, and almost half of all vehicles stolen were left unlocked.
  • Consider VIN etching – Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) can easily be etched on windows, doors, fenders, and other car parts. This makes it difficult for a thief to market your stolen car parts.
  • Don’t hide a second set of keys in your car – Extra keys can easily be found if a thief takes the time to look.
  • Park in high-foot-traffic, well-lighted areas – This is a deterrent to would-be thieves, and thieves do not like witnesses and often prefer unattended, unlit parking lots.
  • Roll up your windows – Always roll up your windows and lock the car, even if it’s parked in front of your home.
  • Don’t leave your car running unattended – Vehicles are commonly stolen at convenience stores, gas stations, ATMs, etc. Many vehicles are also stolen on cold mornings when the owner leaves the vehicle running to warm up.
  • Hide your valuables – Don’t make your car a more desirable target for thieves by leaving valuables in plain sight.

Allstate also suggests that drivers make sure they have the proper insurance coverage in the event they find themselves a victim of auto theft. Auto theft is covered under the comprehensive section of an auto insurance policy. If one’s vehicle is stolen, report it to the police immediately.

Disclaimer: The content on this page is for informational purposes only, and does not constitute legal, tax, or accounting advice. If you have specific questions about any of these topics, seek the counsel of a licensed professional.

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