To Stop a Thief

According to the FBI Uniform Crime Reports in the United States, an automobile is stolen about every 21 seconds. Many of these automobile thefts are perpetrated by amateurs. If it takes a part-time thief to steal your vehicle, then it takes full-time protection from you to thwart this widespread and often preventable crime. Start with these sensible anti-theft steps.

Lock Up

An unlocked car is an open invitation to a thief. Lock up when you leave your car, and take the keys with you.

  • Lock the trunk or tailgate.
  • Close all windows -- professional thieves have tools that unlock cars through the smallest openings.
  • Make sure vent or wind-wing windows are shut tight.
  • When you park your vehicle, remove cellular phones, compact disc players and other valuable possessions. Do not leave gift-wrapped packages or cameras lying on the seat. Lock all valuables in your trunk or take them with you.
  • Lock your car even if you are making a quick stop at the gas station, convenience store, or mini-mall.

Park Carefully

Don't leave your vehicle in unattended public parking lots for an extended period. A car is five times more likely to be stolen from an unattended lot than from the street or attended lot.

  • If possible, park your car in a lot where you don't have to leave your keys with an attendant.
  • Never attach a tag with your name and address to your key ring. If the keys are lost or stolen, the tag will lead the thief directly to your car and your home.
  • At night, park in well-lit areas with lots of people around.
  • Turn wheels sharply toward the curb when parking. This makes it extra difficult for thieves to tow your car.

Identify Your Vehicle and Belongings

  • Record your vehicle identification number (located on a small metal plate on the dashboard of newer vehicles) and store it in a safe place.
  • Keep the vehicle registration in your wallet or purse, not in your car.

Use Anti-Theft Devices

When buying a vehicle, check the manufacturer's list of anti-theft options, such as interior hood and trunk releases, locking steering columns and others. Consider the purchase and installation of security devices, such as:

  • Interior hood lock release
  • Second ignition switch or "kill switch" to prevent electrical current from reaching the coil distributor
  • Fuel switch to prevent fuel from reaching the carburetor
  • Locking gas cap
  • Locking devices for batteries, wheels, decks, etc.
  • Alarm device to activate a siren, horn or lights -- or all three -- to frighten the thief away
  • Device that attaches to the steering wheel or brake pedal
  • Protect Yourself From Car Jacking

This violent, random form of auto theft is on the rise. Here are some precautions:

  • Keep your doors locked.
  • Park in well-lit, busy areas.
  • Be alert of your surroundings and of people approaching your vehicle.
  • Stick with traffic, avoid lightly traveled streets, especially after dark.
  • Keep car and house keys on separate key chains.
  • Keep the garage door opener in your purse or briefcase.
  • When stopped in traffic, always leave enough room to make an emergency getaway.
  • If someone is threatening you with a weapon, give up the vehicle -- it is not worth your life.