Special Report To Auto-Theft.info
Theft Prevention Tips For Cars, Vans, SUV's, Trucks, and Motorcycles
By Dave Badger, Executive Director of The StolenCarReports Program
Typically, your car is your second greatest investment after your
home. And if you're like a lot of car enthusiasts, it's a source of
pride and joy. You baby it, feed it, wash it, and take it in for
regular checkups. You also guard it from danger. One danger that more
than a million people per year deal with is theft. Don't think for a
minute that your vehicle cannot be stolen. The truth is that no car,
truck, or motorcycle is theft-proof. A professional thief can steal
virtually any car, anytime, and anywhere. So, how do you guard against
the danger of theft? It's easier when you understand some of the
characteristics of the crime.
The first step in understanding auto theft is learning that there are
basically three reasons why vehicles are stolen: 1) for "Joy Riding,"
2) for "Chop Shops." and 3) for export abroad. Each of these
categories is about the same size. Together, they represent more than
1.3 million vehicles each year.
While you're eating, sleeping, working, or otherwise preoccupied, a
thief can take your car to use it, strip it, or ship it. You will be
left with a car that has been driven, damaged (a little or a lot) and
abandoned by someone you don't know, a skeleton of what used to be a
car you treasured, or the memory of a lovely car that is now being
driven by a new owner somewhere overseas. And, even if you are insured
for theft, there is a good chance that the insurance reimbursement
won't come close to helping you replace your treasured vehicle.
The second step in understanding auto theft is learning about the
nature of the crime itself. Vehicle theft is a "crime of opportunity."
With hundreds of millions of vehicles to choose from, thieves usually
opt for the "easiest car to steal" in the area. For a thief, the
easiest car to steal is one that suits the thief's purposes, one can
be entered and started quickly, and one that can be moved from place
to place undetected. Whether a thief is stealing any car in sight for
a quite get away, or is determined to steal a higher-priced luxury
car, the specific car stolen will be the one that is easiest to take.
To illustrate this point, let us consider the following scenario.
There are two similar Mercedes sitting in front of a convenience
store. One is locked, and the other is idling with the doors unlocked.
Which one would a thief steal? Simple.
Let us change the scenario slightly. The same two cars are sitting in
front of a convenience store. This time, both cars are locked.
However, one of the cars has "The Club" (or other locking device)
attached to the steering wheel. Which one would a thief most likely
steal? Now you begin to see the pattern of how this works. A thief
will almost always take the easiest target.
When you begin installing "barriers," you make your car harder to
steal. Remember, spending a fortune in an effort to make your car
theft-proof is not the goal. The real goal is to make your car less
inviting to a thief.
The most straightforward approach to vehicle theft prevention is the
National Insurance Crime Bureau's "Layered Approach." This strategy
consists of "Layers" of theft prevention, including Common Sense,
Warning Devices, Immobilization Devices, and Tracking Devices. The
Layered Approach also considers how much theft prevention is required
based on the specific type of vehicle and the geographic area of the
owner. The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) identifies the most
frequently stolen vehicles and the highest theft areas of the country
to calculate recommended levels of theft prevention measures to be
taken by car owners.
For every car owner, "Common Sense" is always the first step in theft
prevention. Using common sense is also very affordable. A common sense
approach to theft prevention includes such practices as always locking
your car - no matter how briefly it will be unattended. For example,
on cold winter mornings, many of us warm up our cars in our own
driveways before leaving for work. Look at the basic elements of this
scenario - the keys are in the ignition, the engine has been started
and is running, and the car unlocked and unattended. You can't make it
much easier for a thief to steal your car.
In addition to always locking your car's doors and windows, common
sense theft prevention also includes such practices as parking in
well-lit areas and never leaving your keys (or a spare key) in the
The second layer of theft prevention as described by the NICB consists
of Warning Devices. The types of devices in this category include car
alarms, steering wheel locking devices, brake pedal locks, wheel
locks, theft-deterrent decals, identification markers, and window
etching. Many of the items listed in this category are very affordable
and offer a significant level of theft prevention. Before moving on,
let's look at some of the items listed in this category.
Locking Devices: One of our earlier theft examples highlighted the
effectiveness of a steering wheel locking device. Steering wheel locks
are available for less than $40.00, are easy to use, and are
tremendously effective. Of the various locking devices listed in this
category, steering wheel locks are the most familiar to most
motorists. However, brake pedal locking devices and wheel locks are
also effective and affordable. Locking devices are effective because
they force a thief to spend more time stealing a vehicle, which means
more time to get caught in the act.
Theft-Deterrent Decals - Perhaps the oldest example of a
theft-deterrent decal would be the one provided by the AAA Motor Club
that offers a reward for information about a vehicle if it has been
reported stolen. Another program that offers warning decals would be
of the several "Watch Your Car" programs around the country. These
organizations provide a decal that gives police permission to stop the
vehicle if it is being driven during very late night or early morning
hours when it would normally be unused.
Identification Markers - This include a group of products that
actually reinforce the true identity of a vehicle and make it harder
for thieves to disguise a stolen vehicle, or its parts. The true
identity of any vehicle is represented as its Vehicle Identification
Number (VIN). In most cars, vans, trucks, and motorcycles this is a
17-character set of numbers and letters that are unique to each
vehicle. A vehicle's VIN is imprinted or marked on the vehicle in
several places. To disguise a stolen car or its parts, thieves try to
remove, replace, or alter the VIN of a stolen vehicle. Several
companies offer products that make this much harder for a thief to
DataDot Technologies in one company that produces an
identification-marking product. DataDot Technologies produces a
product that incorporates microdots imprinted with identification
information into a spray-on product that is applied to various
surfaces on a vehicle. Although invisible to the naked eye, these
microdots reinforce the true identity of a vehicle very well.
Another company that produces an identification-marking product is
IDsticker. IDsticker produces a set of identification marking decals
containing license plate data and VIN data that are applied to various
visible and hidden locations on a vehicle. IDsticker decals are very
affordable and provide a visible warning to thieves that a vehicle's
identity has been reinforced, making the vehicle a riskier target for
theft. In situations where a thief attempts to hide the crime by
putting a phony license plate on stolen vehicle, IDsticker decals
actually create a visible warning that a vehicle may be stolen because
the phony license plate on the vehicle does not match the valid
license plate information on the IDsticker decals.
Perhaps the most effective and most familiar item in this category is
glass etching, more commonly known as VIN etching. This is a process
whereby a vehicle's VIN is actually etched into the windows of the
vehicle. VIN-etched windows make a vehicle a dangerous theft target
VIN etching does not detract from the visual appearance or actual
value of a vehicle to its owner. However, it has the opposite effect
for a would-be thief. VIN etching reduces the appeal of a vehicle to a
thief because it makes it harder to disguise the crime by making it
easier for police to identify the stolen property. VIN etching also
reduces the value of a vehicle to a thief because all of the car's
windows would have to be replaced with non-etched glass before the
thief could attempt to sell the car or its parts.
VIN etching is so effective that many insurers offer discounts from 3%
to 15% on comprehensive premiums for cars with etched windows. Cars
that have been VIN etched have a 64% lower theft rate than non-etched
cars. And, a VIN etched car has a more than an 85% chance of recovery
if it is stolen.
While many automobile dealers offer VIN etching as an add-on service
during the purchase of a vehicle, it is also very easy, safe and much
more affordable for you to do VIN etching yourself. You can purchase
do-it-yourself VIN etching kits from companies like VINetcher and
As we move onto the NICB's third and forth layers of protection, we
begin looking at higher-tech products with higher price tags. These
products are recommended for vehicles that are more frequently
targeted by thieves, and/or vehicles located in areas with higher than
average levels of vehicle thefts.
The NICB's third layer of theft protection consists of immobilization
devices. These devices prevent thieves from bypassing your ignition
and hot-wiring your car. Examples of these sorts of devices include
smart keys which have computer chips built into the ignition key, kill
switches that inhibit the flow of electricity or fuel to the engine
until a hidden switch or button is activated, and starter, ignition,
and fuel disablers.
The fourth and final layer of protection consist of tracking devices
that emit a signal to a police or monitoring station when the vehicle
is reported stolen. Tracking devices can be very effective in helping
authorities recover stolen vehicles. If you live in an area with high
theft rates, own a high-ticket vehicle, or if you are considering the
purchase of a higher priced vehicle you should consider installing
this type of device.
As mentioned earlier, theft-prevention does not equal theft-proof. In
spite of your best efforts to prevent theft, a professional,
determined thief is still capable of stealing your vehicle.
If you vehicle is stolen, call the police and your insurance company
immediately to report the theft. After taking these two steps, you can
register your stolen vehicle with StolenCarReports - "The Nation's
Neighborhood Watch For Stolen Vehicles." StolenCarReports issues email
and wireless text message alerts containing descriptive information
about your vehicle to people in the area where your vehicle was last
seen. These alerts let people in the surrounding area know that the
vehicle has been stolen and asks them to contact police with any
information that will help locate the vehicle. StolenCarReports also
lists the information about your stolen vehicle in an online database
that is available to the general public. StolenCarReports charges a
small registration fee that is fully refundable if the vehicle is not
recovered within a 6-month period following registration.
The fact that vehicle thefts are rising annually in the U.S. means
that it is up to you to take responsible measures to protect your
vehicle from thieves.
Enjoy your vehicle and protect your investment!