One of the most frustrating experiences is the “smash-and-grab” car break-in. It is also one of the most common forms of larceny in the United States. This is an extremely infuriating experience even if they don’t steal your entire car. The process of having to replace all of the valuables that were taken is expensive and time-consuming. While there is no way to 100% way to deter auto thieves, you can take a few common-sense steps to make your vehicle far less appealing. It is important to remember that auto thieves look for opportunities. With this in mind, make them “work” for their pilfered goods. Doing so will likely make them just forget it and move on to a far easier target. Here are a few tips on how to prevent auto theft.

Theft Prevention Starts Before You Leave Your Vehicle

Smash-and-grab thieves aren’t exactly criminal masterminds. In fact, they’re anything but that. Most are nothing more than casual opportunists. They see something they like, so they break in and take it. So before you get out of your car, make sure your valuables are out of sight. Never leave these things lying out on your seats, dashboard or floor:

  • Phone
  • Purse or wallet
  • Laptop (or its bag)
  • A briefcase or backpack
  • Shopping bags
  • An MP3 player or other small electronics
  • CDs if you still use them
  • Cash – yes, even loose change/coins
  • Your keys – yes, this actually does happen!

Prevent Auto Theft: Auto Smash-and-Grabs Happen Out of Sight

Most thieves go solo. The last thing they want is a crowd of onlookers with cell phones and pepper spray ready. So try to keep your car highly visible:

  • Park near other people. Go for busy lots where there’s plenty of pedestrian and vehicle traffic.
  • If you’ll be away from your car after dark, park in a well-lit area or near a lamppost.
  • Choose a lot with an attendant over one without.

Prevent Auto Theft: Discourage thieves with anti-theft measures

Thieves are also lazy. With car break-ins, they’re usually not looking for a huge payoff. What this type of thief wants is a quick thrill – or maybe a little extra revenue – for as little work as possible. By making your car a harder target for these people, 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 casing your car more difficult.
  • Use after-market measures, like mechanisms that lock the steering wheel to protect your car and alert thieves that you’ve taken extra security measures.
  • Don’t use the console or glove box as mobile lockboxes. These are obvious to thieves, too.
  • Don’t hand them the keys

Again, car smash-and-grabbers don’t normally take the vehicle itself. However, there is always the chance that a key on the dash or in the ignition may motivate the more daring into outright auto theft. Also, remember that if you have a great hiding place for a key – say, in your wheel well or above the sun visor – a thief has also thought of it. So if you’re away from your car, keep your keys away from it too. Preferably with you.

Prevent Auto Theft: Beware a watchful eye

While your 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 things there. So before you even get to where you’ll be leaving your car unattended, move your valuables to the trunk or wherever they’re out of sight.

Woman burglar steal a shoulder bag through the window of car – theft concept.

Prevent Auto Theft: Be alert for signs of car thieves

See suspicious activity? Trust your instincts and don’t park there. And never confront anyone yourself. If you’re concerned, report your suspicions to an attendant or the police.

Learn more about how to prevent car theft

Again, theft is often an opportunity. If someone breaks into your car and realizes they have the opportunity to steal your vehicle as well as your valuables, you face a much larger loss. Here are five things you should always do for car theft protection:

  1. Always lock your vehicle (even while driving)
  2. When parked, leave all windows – including the sunroof – closed
  3. Know where you’re going and plan routes that avoid high crime areas whenever possible
  4. Park in well-lit areas
  5. Never leave your car unattended if it’s running