CARS.COM — Summertime is when Americans take their cars on family road trips. For auto thieves, it’s just time to take cars. That’s why July is Vehicle Theft Prevention Month — a reminder to take precautions to protect the most essential item on your road-trip checklist: your car.
“Vehicle theft is a very expensive crime, with the cost of stolen vehicles pegged at more than $4.1 billion — that’s billion with a ‘B,’ ” the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said in a statement. “And July is one of the months when more cars are stolen than any other month.”
According to anti-vehicle-theft device manufacturer LoJack, July and August are when motorists are at greatest risk of having their car stolen. And as opposed to teenage “joyriding” of the past, today’s car thieves are sophisticated professionals often linked to large international crime rings who smuggle stolen cars outside the country to sell, or dismantle and sell the individual parts. The National Insurance Crime Bureau has reported that as anti-theft features make modern cars increasingly difficult to steal, criminals have countered by becoming even more sophisticated in their methods.
But like much, if not most, criminal activity, auto theft is largely a crime of opportunity.
“Research by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has found that nearly half of all vehicles are stolen when drivers fail to take some simple precautions,” NHTSA stated. “Don’t make it so easy for car thieves.”
NHTSA and LoJack recommend the following vehicle-theft prevention tips:
- Park in a well-lit area, preferably a garage.
- Take the keys with you and do not leave them in or on the car, and never leave the car running when you’re not inside.
- Close and lock all windows and doors when you park.
- Never leave valuables in your vehicle, especially in plain sight; if you must leave something behind, lock it in the trunk.
- Have your car fitted with an anti-theft device. LoJack recommends devices such as wheel locks, car alarms and immobilizers, as well as a tracking-and-recovery system like those it manufactures.
- Don’t program your home address into your GPS system under “home,” as it could lead thieves straight to your house; instead, program your address under another name.
If you do find yourself in the unfortunate position of having had your vehicle stolen, NHTSA says to remain calm, contact police, file a stolen-vehicle report and notify your insurance provider to submit a claim. If you find your vehicle before the authorities, notify police and your insurance company immediately.