If you’ve ever had your car broken into or stolen, you know how awful it feels. Your car is like an extension of your home, and knowing that a stranger has been inside, helping themselves to your belongings, goes beyond the loss of physical items.
Unfortunately, Washington state has one of the highest vehicle theft rates in the country, according to statistics from the US Department of Justice. In fact, in 2017 Washington ranked fourth in motor vehicle thefts.
Luckily, there are several ways that you can make your vehicle less susceptible to thieves. Some are common sense, while others might surprise you:
- Lock the doors and close the windows. Many people, especially in the San Juans, aren’t in the habit of properly securing their cars when unattended. The sad truth is that it’s just not safe – or smart – to leave your car doors unlocked anymore. Don’t give thieves an easy entrance to your vehicle, or the chance to reach in and grab whatever they like. “Slider” crimes are on the rise at gas stations nationwide (find out about them here.)
- Don’t leave the car running. It can be tempting to leave your car while it heats up on a cold morning or to run in for something you forgot at home, but it makes the easiest possible target for a waiting car thief. In fact, it’s illegal to leave a running vehicle unattended in Washington and in most other states. It only takes a few seconds to turn off your engine and lock the doors. Don’t take the risk.
- Park in a well-lit area. No thief wants an audience and a spotlight. If you’re parking after dark, choose a spot near a street light or other light source, and preferably in a well-trafficked area. This will not only help keep your vehicle safe, but also increase your own safety as you enter and exit the car.
- Don’t leave valuables inside. If at all possible, remove all valuables from your vehicle any time you’re not with it. And don’t think you can easily fool thieves – simply covering a purse or pile of shopping bags with a blanket won’t likely deter most (although if it’s your only option, it’s still better than leaving them out in the open). The best way to avoid unwelcome treasure hunters is to make it quite clear to see that there is, in fact, no treasure to be found in your vehicle. Which leads to the next tip:
- Know your car’s hiding spots. Many vehicles have minimal storage under front seats or the floor, which might be a better place to keep something than the well-known and well-used center console or glove box. If you’re going to use these compartments to hide valuables, do it before arriving at your destination. Many thieves will target vehicles when they see the driver hiding things before getting out.
- Choose your stickers wisely. Stickers on your vehicle can say a lot about it as a potential target for thieves. One of the best for deterring break-ins is an anti-theft system decal – whether you actually have an anti-theft system or not, someone will think twice before potentially setting off an attention-getting alarm. One of the worst decals would be one advertising an expensive sound system brand or similar upgrade, as thieves will be alerted to an opportunity to make extra cash on a spendy stereo.