Automobile theft is no laughing matter.
It leaves people without a means of transportation, costs the public more money in insurance payments and taxes and can give anyone the feeling of being personally violated.
The FBI estimates that around one million motor vehicles are stolen in the U.S. each year. The Insurance Bureau of Canada says that a car is stolen every three and a half minutes in Canada, an estimate that translates to approximately 420 cars per day. Auto theft costs everyone millions of dollars - and can even cost some their lives.
According to the Insurance Information Institute, the chances of a car being stolen are now significantly less than they were in 1989. That could be due to vehicle theft prevention systems that now come standard on many new cars.
While not all vehicle thefts and break-ins can be prevented, there are many devices individuals can employ to help reduce the risk.
. Immobilizing devices: There are several types of immobilizing devices available. An immobilizing system works by preventing thieves from bypassing your ignition switch and hot-wiring your car. An immobilization device can involve a kill switch that needs to be turned on before the car will start and can be cleverly hidden. Most cars also come with specially encoded smart keys that are required to start the car. The key is unique to the make, model and VIN number of the car.
. Car alarms: Car alarms work as a deterrent to theft, but they do not always prevent theft. Many people have become desensitized to car alarms because of the frequency of "false alarms" from car owners setting the alarms off themselves. Therefore, they may no longer be as effective as they once were. In addition, many thieves can disarm an alarm in a matter of seconds.
. Hood and tire locks: Locks that are installed on different parts of the car or truck can also deter thieves. A hood lock stops a potential thief from getting under the hood and gaining access to the engine and wiring. Tire locks are special devices that require a unique tool to remove the tire. This can help prevent tire theft and may give thieves pause as to what other devices are on the car.
. Tracking devices: There are devices, like Lojack, that are designed to pinpoint the position of a car. It uses FM radio frequencies to help police recover the car. Some people also purchase aftermarket GPS devices that will show their vehicle's location on a computer or smartphone.
. OnStar: This system was originally designed to be a crash-notification system, but it now offers other helpful services. Individuals can use OnStar for directions, to unlock their vehicles and now to slow down their cars and trucks if they have been stolen. OnStar comes preinstalled on many General Motors cars.
There are other steps to take to prevent vehicle thefts and break-ins:
. Whenever possible, park in well-illuminated areas.
. Never leave your car unlocked.
. Keep valuables, including money, out of site in your car.
. Be mindful of where you keep your car keys.
. When parking in unfamiliar neighbourhoods, park in public pay-lots that have security present.
. Give valet parkers your valet key, so they won't have access to a trunk or glove compartment.
. Know your car alarm sound and be aware of it.