Did you know that about one million cars are stolen each year in the USA? Costs to owners and auto insurance industry are in the several billions of dollars. Then, there are the costs of efforts to retrieve stolen vehicles and punish criminals through the legal system. How about disappointment, inconvenience and increased car insurance rates due to making claims?
You may be lucky never to deal with such an incident so far. However, did you know that it might only take a moment of absentmindedness to be a victim? Perhaps you would be interested to know who car thieves are, what they think and which methods they use. Their insights can help people better protect automobiles.
Who Are the Car Thieves and Why Do They Steal?
We already know how much at stake and how far people can go when they can make good money. However, their motivations may not be always money. Street thugs who have nothing to do can turn into auto thieves when the opportunity presented. Even a neighborhood kid can be tempted if he/she sees a BMW left running outside.
Generally though, they are well organized and it is a large industry starting with the guys who take the cars to garages to chop and crook dealers to sell them. According to police quotes, a car can be chopped to its parts within an hour of being stolen and never to be seen or detected again. Guys on the streets learn new tricks of the trade and their partners enable them with the latest technology to break into automobiles every day.
Someone may get into crimes out of desperation and like it when he/she sees the money. When they are down in their luck and no prospect of employment people may cherish any opportunity of making money. Besides, people they meet around them may be talking about some sort of illegal activity. So, buddies can quickly turn into teachers. Before they know they are highly skilled.
People with a repair shop and mechanical skills may earn a lot more than repairing cars for others this way. All they need is a suspect moral. When a second hand auto dealer or used car part supplier of similar inclinations is added into equation a complete circle is formed to gobble up any vehicle in no time. Not that someone cannot go solo and do all that.
What Happens to Stolen Vehicles?
That really depends on who took it. Sometimes, it may be taken by a friend or family member out of spite and may turn up once they cool down. A kid may take it for joy riding. You would be lucky if they don’t smash it somewhere or cause damages. Most of them will never be found at all or in one piece. Even they are found they will most likely be beyond repair or burnt down.
Most cars are taken for parts because they can be used in similar models or when someone is customizing his auto. Older cars usually don’t have identification number etched. However, they can get around it even they are numbered. They can wipe the old number and stamp a new one in a capable shop.
Some expensive cars may be stolen to order and shipped out of the country pretty quickly. Certain cars like Mercedes and BMW have a good second hand parts market in the U.S or outside. In some cases, they can take a car in pieces to avoid detection and rebuild them somewhere in Europe, Asia or Africa with a brand new title.
Another reason may be to commit a crime and get away with someone else’s car. These ones are likely to be burnt down not to leave any evidence behind. And people can orchestrate it so that they can claim on insurance as well. They will probably get burnt, too.
Lately auto theft numbers have been coming down. This is mostly due to advanced technology and prevention measures. Cars are built with security and recovery devices as standard at the factory these days. Also, police has easy ways of checking if a car is owned or not and they have a database of stolen cars available to them. These solutions make it a riskier business. Prevention is always the best method of tackling these issues.
What Are Auto Thieves’ General Tendencies?
Have you ever wondered what would one of them tell you over a beer about his trade? A few of them have been talking about how they do it and what is their secret or what type of cars they prefer. Of course, there are all types as in any trade. Some are common criminals and others are much complicated and love the challenges. Probably there are some who call themselves Rolls Royce of car thieves because they only still high end automobiles. Here are some of the common tendencies.
- They Usually Go For Easy Pickings
People leave automobiles running to warm it up in the winter before they start a journey. Auto dealers often leave the keys on in the lot. Garages park cars waiting to be serviced outside with the keys on. Motorists leave keys on the vehicle when they go to pay at gas stations. Cars even left at carwash queues unattended and with keys on ignition. These are all easy pickings that they don’t even need to break in. All they need to do is to wait for a chance, get on and drive.
- They Look for Cars that Are Easy with Valuable Parts
If they can get it started with a screwdriver and can sell the bits and pieces easily they are happy as Larry. They can take these cars apart within an hour and make $700 – $800. Some of the old cars are worth more this way than they are as one piece. They know the popular cars and what parts to take. Sometimes they don’t bother to take the rest of the car. They pull it up on a quite road, break it into pieces and leave it there.
The list below explains it more why some cars are stolen more often than the others. You will notice that they go for the models that don’t have much security features and certainly not alarmed. This makes the job easier and less risky. Also it may be because there are more common operators than highly sophisticated ones who love new challenges.
Most Stolen Vehicles in the U.S. in 2012
1. 1994 Honda Accord: Its parts are in high demand & it is easier to steal. This is the most stolen car for the last 4 years
2. 1998 Honda Civic: Outrageous production numbers & high-dollar parts make it popular among thieves.
3. 2006 Ford Pickup: Powerful, cleaner-burning engines, increased passenger & cargo room, & refined interiors. Nice one to have.
4. 1991 Toyota Camry: Best selling cars of its time. Higher numbers in circulation means higher chance of theft.
5. 2000 Dodge Caravan: Lack of anti-theft devices, numerous airbags and catalytic converters.
6. 1994 Acura Integra: Adorable fast car for collectors.
7. 1999 Chevrolet Pickup: Popular pickup with very little security features.
8. 2004 Dodge Pickup: Valuable Diesel V8 Engine and possible trade tools in the pickup.
9. 2002 Ford Explorer: Valuable V8 engine that fits to other Ford models as well.
10. 1994 Nissan Sentra: Easy to steal old car with valuable parts.
3. They Look for Cars that Are Hidden from View
You may think that they are daring and risk takers. But they are lazy and more cautious than you think. They look for cars that are parked in quiet, dark and less travelled streets. There is less chance of getting caught. It may be easier at night but there are many dark spots during the day as well like parking garages.
- They May Only Be Interested in Valuables in Vehicles
Trade vans and pickup trucks are usual targets for valuable and easy to sell trade tools. Some go around and look for valuable tools left in the garden like lawn movers. Cell phones, laptops, even wallets are regularly left inside automobile in plain view. It only takes a second to smash a window, grab and run. The alarm can go as long and loud as it likes, who cares?
- Latest Security Features May Not Be an Obstacle at Times
It is true that most of them would avoid highly sophisticated automobiles and go for the easy ones. This doesn’t mean that one or two will not try to get away with the latest cars. They have ways to get to smart keys and copy it. If they cannot, they may be able to get a copy fraudulently through dealers.
You may be proud that your car is so smart with so many gadgets, computerized equipment and Internet connection. Did you know that they could hack it just like they hack computers, websites and e-mail accounts? They have capabilities to open or manipulate the vehicle while you are driving. It is scary, right?
Therefore, you need to keep common sense as your guard. You should mind who could have access to your automobile and personal data. For example, they can only contact the dealer with your personal data and trick them into sending a new copy to their address. Keep personal details safe. If you notice something obviously wrong with the auto or some other suspicious activity around you take it to the nearest garage to be checked or report the activity.
How to Avoid Being Auto Theft Victim
National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) recommends a layered approach in protecting cars. Naturally, the more layers there are the less chance of it being taken.
Common Sense: Advance alarm systems and devices may come to mind first but common sense is always the first layer of defence regardless of how technologically advanced we are. What is the point of having an alarm when you don’t lock it to set it up? What is the point indeed if you are going to leave it running on the street ready to be driven by anyone who fancies? Here are the things you should do;
– Always check that doors and windows are closed and make sure that you lock it.
– Never leave valuable items inside as they will break into it to get to them.
– Never leave mails, documents with personal details, driver license or social security numbers. They may be used for stealing your identity that consequences could be more devastating than losing the auto.
– Park it in a well-lit area at night and avoid dark corners of parking garages.
– Don’t leave keys laying around especially when you are working with public face to face every day or anyone could walk into your work place.
Alarms and Warning Devices: Visible or audible second layer solutions can deter and make them move onto an easier target. So, here are a few of them.
– Buy cars with noisy auto alarms or get them installed. Don’t disable them as this may cause problems with insurance claims afterwards.
– Window etching or other identification markers are useful too.
– Steering wheel looks are obvious signs that you have taken some precautions.
– Wheel locks could be a solution for overnight parking and in high crime areas.
Immobilizers: These third layer devices prevent a car to be hot-wired. They work in several ways to prevent the car from starting. The electricity or fuel may be cut off if someone tries to bypass the usual ignition. Popular immobilizing devices are; kill switches, fuse cut-offs, smart keys, ignition or fuel disablers, wireless authentications.
Tracking Devices: The final protection layer helps you or police to find the location of the vehicle after it has gone. Some sort of signalling device is used to tell where it is. If you act quickly you have a good chance of recovering the auto and possibly with minimum damage. They generally work with wireless technologies like GPS to allow remote locating. It starts with alerting the owner when the vehicle is taken and continues to alert the location as it moves.
These are generally highly recommended for expensive cars and they have a pretty good rate of recovery. They wouldn’t want to be red-handed and therefore, stay away from cars with tracking. If your automobile comes with one of these it is great. Otherwise, it is worth investing in one of them. Some GPS systems can be used as a tracking device as well.
Insurance Implications of Security Solutions
Generally, you will get cheap automobile insurance rates if your vehicle comes with any of these installed in the factory. If not, you can get them installed later on but some vehicle insurers may not offer discounts for third party installed security. Generally, they know exactly what sort of security each make and model has been installed by the manufacturer. If you have disabled or upgraded any of them you should let the carrier know.
Many people think that they may have to pay a lot more when they buy a new car. However, new autos come with advanced safety and security features. They could qualify you for enough discounts to wipe away the increased premium due to higher value.