Southeast Missouri State University

Any car can be a target, from luxury cars, sports cars, to small economical cars, to trucks. Dusk to mid-evening are peak hours for auto theft. Over half of all automobiles are stolen from shopping areas. Some special danger areas are shopping plazas, parking lots at sports events, and transportation terminals. Auto theft is a widespread problem. Nationally, car theft rates have been rising in recent years, especially in smaller cities and rural areas.

Vehicle Theft Is A Big Problem

  1. One car is stolen every 19 seconds in the United States. That’s less time than it takes most people to unlock their car, put on their seat belt and start the engine.
  2. In fact, if auto theft were a legitimate business in the United States, it would rank 50th among the Fortune 500 companies.
  3. More than 2/3 of all thefts take place at night and over half occur in residential areas.
  4. Approximately one out of every 119 registered motor vehicles was stolen in 1994.
  5. The thief who drives your car away is 200 times more likely to have a serious accident with it than you are.

What You Can Do To Safeguard Your Car

  1. Whether you leave your car for a minute or for several hours, roll up the windows, lock it, and take the key.
  2. Park in a busy, well lit area.
  3. Carry your registration with you. Don’t leave any personal identification documents, keys or credit cards anywhere in the vehicle.
  4. Keep packages or valuables in the trunk. If you leave anything in the car, make certain it is covered and out of sight.
  5. Purchase stereo components, CB’s and cellular phones that can be removed from their brackets and placed in a more secure location upon parking.

Theft Prevention Devices

  1. Alarms: After years of false alarms, people have stopped paying attention to alarms. There is no statistical evidence that they reduce auto theft. Any serious anti-theft device must do more than just make noise.
  2. Steering Wheel Locks: Steering wheel locks are visible from outside the car and prevent the wheel from being turned more than a few degrees. A variation on the steering wheel lock is the J-bar or grip lock, an adjustable steel bar rod that hooks under the brake and locks to the steering wheel.
  3. Etching Parts: Many cars are stolen for parts. Professional thieves shy away from a vehicle that has had the vehicle identification number (VIN) etched into the doors, windows, windshield, etc.
  4. Anti-theft Systems: Starting at less than $300 and going higher as options are added, anti-theft systems typically include siren alarms, starter disablers, motion sensors, remote control activation, panic buttons, and shock detectors on doors, windows, or trunk lids. A beeper can alert the owner when someone trips the system.

When You Buy A Car...

  1. Be suspicious if the price is lower than normal. Hot cars are not bargains.
  2. Verify that the VIN (vehicle identification number) plate is intact and has not been tampered with. Check it against the ownership documents.
  3. If possible, don’t pay cash. Your check is your receipt that you bought the vehicle.
  4. Examine the title and registration papers carefully. If you have any doubts, don’t buy the car.

Many newer cars are equipped with a combination of anti-theft devices such as alarms, flashing lights, ignition kill switches, steering wheel locks, etc. These used in combination with etching are the most effective deterrent.

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