I’ve heard that when you walk back to your car to find a window smashed in and your belongings stolen, this intense sinking feeling sets in. According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau, over a billion dollars in personal property and accessories are stolen from vehicles in roughly 2 million thefts each year. And while auto tech is continuously ramping up, it has created a sort of double-edged sword when it comes to auto theft, as criminals have found their way around things like keyless entry systems (originally intended to keep those of us with a key misplacement problem in line). There are many precautions you can take to protect your car, but lets start with parking: Which spots are the worst?
1. Low-traffic Areas
There seems to be a stigma that parking in “rough” or low-income neighborhoods means your car is a candidate for theft. But, the research shows that break-ins happen across the board—maybe even more so in ritzy neighborhoods where high-dollar goods are more likely to be left in high-risk vehicles (like convertibles or luxury cars). However, parking in areas with less passers-by can make an intruder more confident that they won’t be caught. So whenever possible, park in high-traffic areas where lots of eyes will be on a potential break-in: Visibility is a strong deterrent for criminals.
2. Dark or Poorly Lit Areas
Park in a well-lit, high-traffic area where passerby, either walking or driving, may serve as a deterrent to someone who might steal from your car. Try to park near a storefront that will still be brightly lighted, on a main thoroughfare, under a street light, etc. If your car is too visible it can help deter a criminal for checking it out. If you have a garage at your residence or job, utilize it to protect your car. Some (we’d say particularly nefarious) intruders break into cars while they’re parked in their owner’s driveway—even while the owner is at home.
3. Anywhere Overnight
Crime defense site “PepperEyes” explains that, “Statistically, your vehicle is the least safe at night when you are sleeping and the darkness provides limited visibility for would be burglars to mask themselves while committing their crime against you.” Overnight, not only is your car going to be parked in an area with low-traffic, but it’s going to be in the dark for an extended period of time. Leaving your car on the street or in a parking lot or garage overnight will drastically increase the chances of a break-in, so take your ride home with you whenever possible. In addition, a crime report out of Houston revealed that the two of the top three most broken-into parking places were in residential areas: apartment parking lots, and driveways. So park in your garage if possible, or consider investing in a protected parking spot at your apartment. If parking is free-for-all, at least look for a well-lit spot. Consider yourself an anti-vampire: When it comes to parking safety, the light is your friend.
The main idea here is visibility, and we mean this in two ways. First and foremost, thieves are only separated from your valuables by an easily broken piece of glass. So make sure everything — and we mean everything — is out of sight. None of your valuables should be visible to passers-by. And if your plan is to hide items away in the trunk, do so before you leave home so you’re not seen putting a $1,000 laptop away, prime for the taking the second you walk away. If you have a removable face-plate on your stereo, be sure to take it off before leaving your car—these systems are useless to thieves without the face.
Secondly, in opposition to your valuables, your car should be as visible as possible. The more traffic and lighting, the less likely you are to get broken into. And, the old stand-bys still ring true: Always lock your car, and make sure to look for a good comprehensive insurance plan to cover any break-ins that may occur.
Have any expert tips and tricks for avoiding break-ins to share? What are your personal worst places to park—places you’d never dare leave your precious ride?