Auto thefts happen every day – but don’t make it easy for thieves to “smash and grab.” For instance, don’t park your car in a lot and leave your wallet or purse on the passenger seat. And don’t leave your SUV unattended with your CDs, cell phone or change visible in the console.
Not only will you probably lose your stuff that way, but you'll also make the auto-glass guy richer and spend weeks retrieving stray shards from your car's interior. While you can't deter "smash-and-grab" thieves entirely, you can take a few simple steps to minimize the likelihood you'll fall victim to this annoying and often costly type of theft.
What they can't see won't tempt them
Smash-and-grab practitioners aren't exactly criminal masterminds. Many are just casual opportunists, grazing secluded parking areas without much of a plan or simply acting on impulse. They see, they smash, they grab. And then they slink or run away. So keep your valuables either with you or out of sight. Things not to leave lying on the seat, dash or floor:
- Purses and wallets
- Laptop bags, briefcases and backpacks
- Shopping bags
- Cell phones, MP3 players and other small electronics
- Loose change and CDs
Make them uncomfortable
Most theft is solitary work. The last thing thieves want is a crowd of onlookers with cell phones and pepper spray at the ready. So try to keep your car conspicuous:
- Park in busy lots and designated spaces, near pedestrian and vehicle traffic.
- If there's a chance you'll be away from your car after dusk, park in a well-lit area or near a lamppost.
- Choose a lot with an attendant over one without.
Make them work for it
The theft of small items from cars may yield the occasional bonanza (a wallet or laptop, for instance), but many thieves go for small items because of their inherent amusement value (your MP3 player or phone). What a thief wants is fun or a trickle of supplemental revenue for as little work as possible. By making your car a harder target for smash-and-grab theft, you make it less desirable. So:
- Always lock your doors and roll up your windows when you park.
- Activate your security system if you have one.
- Consider window tinting (if permitted by local laws), since it makes the act of casing your car more time-consuming and conspicuous.
- Avoid using the console or glove box as mobile lock boxes, since these are obvious to thieves, too.
Don't hand them the keys
A key on the dash or in the ignition may propel the weak-willed or enterprising into outright auto theft. And keep in mind that if you have a great hiding place for a key – say, in your wheel well or above your sun visor – a thief has thought of it, too. Many times.
Move personal items ahead of time
While the trunk is better than the passenger compartment for shopping bags and laptops, an experienced thief will often stake out a parking lot and watch you transfer your valuables. Move things before you get to your destination, and you're a step ahead of the game.
See suspicious activity? Trust your instincts: Don't park there. And don't confront anyone yourself. If you're really concerned, report your suspicions to an attendant or the police.