Consumer Reports’ Advice on Preventing Car Theft

Motorcycle and car theft are on the rise in America. It’s one of the lamest things around, but it’s happening. In fact, car thefts increased 9.2 percent last year alone. It makes sense, though. Many millions of people lost their jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic. Economic stressors almost always shake out with higher crime statistics as people are worried and desperate. That being said, according to Consumer Reports, there are some steps we can all take to secure our rides better and help prevent car theft numbers from growing. Older cars like a 90s Ford or something might be easier due to manual locks, but even modern cars with key fobs are getting swiped.

Retired car thief shows the old tricks of the trade to help people avoid car theft
Retired car thief | Nat Geo

The best way to prevent car theft is by not making it easy

Consumer Reports spoke with Lt. Bruce Hosea, an auto theft specialist with the LA Police Department, who said that most car theft could be traced back to thieves seeing a car as an easy target. Of course, this is a common through-line with most crimes. An “easy target” typically means an older car that may be easier to jimmy a door open, cracked windows, or unlocked doors. 

If car theft is more likely to happen in cases where cars seem easy to steal, then logic would say that the best thing you can do to prevent car theft is to keep your car parking tight. The easy steps here are simply locking your doors, rolling up your windows, and making sure your car is a well-lit and populated place. 

It seems like a no-brainer, but locked doors will stop the majority of car thefts. “The overwhelming majority of vehicle thefts and burglaries are a result of unlocked vehicle doors,” says Crystal Clark, a spokesperson for the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office in Florida.

Visible security devices actually help

I know we all roll our eyes when we hear a car alarm. Almost no one stops to think a person is stealing a car when they hear one blaring. All we want is for it to shut off. However, police say that a visible security device will usually prevent most car thefts. Things like a steering wheel lock or the little blinking red light of a car alarm do more to deter thieves than we think. These things make the idea of stealing a car just an extra step harder, and statistics show that most thieves will more than likely move on. 

Lights and cameras are a great way to stop car theft

Consumer Reports says having motion-activated floodlights outside of your house is a strong deterrent against car theft. There is both a practical and psychological advantage to having bright lights near your car. For one, a thief will most likely leave if they are suddenly flooded with bright lights and see a camera. These things also trigger a psychological reaction to being exposed. 

Having a camera up may deter theft if it’s visible. Still, even if a car is stolen, good footage can be invaluable to catching the suspect and getting stolen property returned. 

Are there tracking devices for cars? 

Of course, tracking devices won’t prevent theft, but they will likely help if a car gets stolen. This is a simple and completely reversible mod that may pay off. Some basic GPS units can plug directly into your vehicle’s computer port, but they can also be easily removed. 

According to Consumer Reports, LoJack is probably the more popular brand of GPS, but it is a more fully integrated system that costs a bit more. These days, some new car models will provide a car tracking service as a subscription, as well. 

There is only so much you can do to stop someone from stealing your car

Unfortunately, car theft is going to happen. There is nothing you can do to guarantee that your car is completely safe. However, these easy steps can greatly reduce the chance of coming out and finding your car missing. Keep it simple: lock your doors, roll up your windows, park in a well-lit area, and outside of that, use common sense. 

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