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Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Don't Let Your Car Make You a Crime Victim

Most of us don't give a whole lot of thought to our cars. As long as they start up in the morning, we're usually content with that. We may curse them depending on the price of gas or the size of the car payment but basically cars are a way to get from point A to point B as easily as possible. What many people don't think about is that their car can help make them a crime victim. Here's some things to consider:
  • Is your car on the "most stolen car" list? Check here and see.
  • Do you drive in a city with the highest rates of car theft in the country? Check here and see.
  • Do you just hand over your car key (or worse, your entire key chain) to car maintenance men or valets? Don't. Instead, lock up everything (console, trunk, glove box) and give them the valet key so the only lock they can open is the car door.
  • Do you have the "home" setting on your GPS set to your home address? If you are driving a very nice car, thieves may think your home has equally nice stuff. With your GPS device, they can hit the "home" button and be led directly to your home. Side note: the home setting on my GPS device is set to the local sheriff's office address--it will get me close enough to my home destination yet still serve as an amusing deterrent to thieves.
  • Do you have your home address on your car's registration? This is yet another way a thief can steal/ransack your nice luxury car then assume your home will have some nice up-scale items as well--and with the registration they will easily be able to find their way to your home. Side note: the address on my car's registration is the address to my office.
  • Do you leave your garage door opener hanging on your visor (or other accessible place in the car)? Thieves can steal your car (or just your garage door opener), find your address, then easily let himself into your home. Side note: my garage door opener stays locked in the console until I need it.
  • Does your car provide a paper trail of your entire life? I looked into a car the other day and I could give you a complete run-down on the owner. They are a student at the local university (college level books and crumpled up sweatshirt from the U), they live on fast food (wrappers from every fast food restaurant in a five mile radius were strewn about the car), their name is ___ (I will leave this blank for privacy purposes but it was clearly displayed on the mail left on the dashboard) and they live at ____ (again I will leave this blank but their address was clearly shown on their mail). Side note: my car looks like it came from a rental agency, it is clean inside, the only contents being my briefcase and other items I need for the day; a bag of emergency supplies is kept concealed in the trunk.
  • How about the outside of your car? Is there an NRA sticker on it which may lead neighborhood car prowlers to think you have a nice stash of firearms in your home? Does it tell the world where your kids go to school? Again, the less information on your car, the better.
  • What does the license plate say about you? Hopefully not you name--a criminal can catch you in a parking lot, call you by name, and immediately get you within victim range just by acting like they know you. The license plate holder can be used similarly--if the names of your grand kids are cleverly displayed on your license plate frame, a criminal can use a made up incident with your grandchild, called by name, to get your attention and possibly your purse/body/life.
  • Do you know your license plate number? While rare, criminals have been known to switch plates from their stolen car with plates from a similar car that hasn't been reported stolen. If you notice something amiss with your car, say plates with different numbers on them, report this to the police immediately.

Fortunately most of us go about our lives without having anything negative happen but there are some things that only thieves would think of that we can use to make our cars (and ourselves) a bit safer.