On the Beat in Bluffton

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Keeping your car safe

The Bluffton Police log has recorded several incidents of vehicle break-ins over the past few days. The News-Banner has scoured the web to find online tips to help prevent your car from becoming a target.
  • Choose your parking spot carefully. Always try to 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; up against bushes, dumpsters or fences; or in remote areas where thieves don’t run the risk of getting caught.
  • Anything in clear view gives the thief a certain payoff for breaking in. That’s why you should hide all of your electronics, shopping bags and valuables under the seats or lock them in the trunk, or take them into the store.
  • Lock the doors and roll up the windows. 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.)
  • Don’t store your home address in your GPS. Some drivers have had their GPS units stolen, their home addresses have been identified and then the thieves have gone and cleaned out the houses as well. That’s why you should 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.
  • Install a car alarm. If your car starts beeping and wailing as soon as a thief tries 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. 
  • Up to a quarter of vehicle thefts are from unlocked cars, according to some law enforcement agencies. Simply locking the doors will deter those who might just be cruising the neighborhood looking around for an easy target.
  • Almost any worthless personal item that's visible from the outside — even an empty shopping bag — could be seen as a valuable or a carrier of valuables. If you have a wagon or SUV that leaves your cargo area on display, consider emptying it, or getting a cover to keep valuables or other belongings out of sight.
  • Don't leave any bait out for thieves; stow your electronics and accessories well out of sight-or better yet, remove it overnight. The evidence alone might be enough to pique the interest of thieves, so hide that too, including power plugs, telltale iPod adapters, or navigation system windshield suction-cup mounts, and even put the cigarette lighter back in place.
  • Get to know your neighbors and their cars, and keep a sharp lookout for strangers or suspicious activity.  If you spot a strange vehicle cruising your street slowly, try to get a tag number and call the police.  If you look out for your neighbors, they can do the same for you.
  • Completely close windows and sunroofs, not just because thieves might reach in through the gap and open your locks with a coat hanger. Open windows will disable the pressure sensor in some car alarms, leaving the vehicle more vulnerable to break-in and potentially giving thieves more time before the alarm sounds.
  • Thefts of car audio components are on the decline, but having an aftermarket system still makes a car more attractive to thieves thinking of breaking in. There's no black market to speak of for factory stereos, and they've become much better sounding in recent years.
  • A significant portion of vehicles are broken into with the intent of stealing the vehicle itself, so combining several visible simple, inexpensive physical theft deterrents like steering wheel locks (The Club), steering column collars, or brake pedal locks may discourage the would-be thief from breaking in and trying.
  • The National Insurance Crime Bureau recommends layering defenses; layers include warning devices such as alarms, wheel etching, or decals; immobilizers; and even tracking systems (LoJack is one).

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