By Cara Giaimo, SimpliSafe.com
Your commute may seem endless, but you actually spend 90% of your time away from your car. And while you’re off living your life, odds are you’ve left Herbie a sitting duck—according to CNN, there are 1.85 million auto break-ins every year, resulting in about $1.25 billion worth of stolen stuff. That’s a lot of quarters for the parking meter! It’s also extremely preventable. Follow these nine easy steps to make your car as safe as your home.
9 Steps to Car Security
STEP 1: Secure your garage
Not only is it the most vulnerable room in your house—it’s your car’s home, and deserves a top-quality lockdown. Frosted windows, a motion-activated spotlight, and a garage door deadbolt can all work wonders for keeping garage-gangsters out in the cold where they belong.
STEP 2: Park smart
The same as with homes, isolation or too much cover (in the form of foliage, fences, or larger vehicles) are both environments that let thieves work undetected. Leave your car in a busy, well-lit area where passers-by will keep burglars away.
**Extra tip: if you’re in a public parking lot, like at a mall or a gym, be hyper-vigilant—thieves hang out there and specifically watch for shoppers moving their haul to the trunk before going back in for more, and runners who leave their phones in the car because they can’t fit them in their spandex.**
STEP 3: Hide your loot
Before you head to your destination, take a moment to stow your valuables. This includes obvious big-ticket items like GPS’s, laptops, and smartphones, but according to a study by the Regional Auto Theft Task Force, thieves will also break in to grab CDs and loose change. Police in Brooklyn found a 47% decrease in car break-ins after an initiative that raised awareness about not leaving valuables in plain sight (even if it’s your best friend, your iPad shouldn’t ride shotgun all the time. Especially when you’re not in the car).
STEP 4: Scrub the evidence
You stashed the GPS in your glove box—but those little suction-cup circles on your windshield tell burglars it’s probably nearby. Same with a stray charger, or an empty cigarette lighter receptacle. Even that empty shopping bag you’ve been using as a trash can shouts “loot!” to a thief making the rounds in a parking lot. A clean and organized car is a safe car (as well as a chick magnet).
STEP 5: Take it with you
There are some things you should never leave in your car no matter what. These include garage door openers (it’s one short step from your car to your house), documents that clearly reveal your home address (mail, magazines, labeled house keys), and the keys to that car (seems obvious, but you’d be surprised).
**Extra tip: Give your kids a rundown on car safety, too. If your backseat denizen leaves his Game Boy in plain sight, all your front-seat cleanup is for nothing.**
STEP 6: Lock it up
Even if you’re just running into the drug store or taking a quick phone call in the parking lot, lock your door! Recently, police have noticed an increase in “sliders,” where a thief slides into an unlocked car and comes out with a purse or wallet in less than 10 seconds. This is something you can literally avoid by pushing a button, so you probably should. Close your windows and your sun roof, too.
STEP 7: Go the extra mile
A lot of carjackers aim to steal the cars themselves, so a strong and visible steering wheel lock or brake pedal lock might keep them away. So might a sticker advertising a car alarm system, though that’s most effective if you have the alarm system to back it up.
**Extra tip: If you drive in a port or border city, be especially cautious. A report by the National Insurance Car Bureau shows that half of the top 25 cities for auto theft are “communities with easy access to borders” (8 of the top 10 are in California).**
STEP 8: Gloves on
The glove box contains the most valuable stuff in your whole car—your personal information. Play fast and loose with your insurance info, your duplicate license, or even your car registration, and you put yourself at risk for identity theft. Lately, greedy thieves have been targeting cars parked outside of movie theaters and restaurants. They’ll steal the car, scan the registration, and then—knowing their victim is wrapped up in a rom-com or a bowl of tortellini—empty out the house, too. Make sure that glove box lock works, and use it. And consider keeping a photocopy of your registration in your car with the address blacked out.
STEP 9: Worst gift ever
Never trust a present from a burglar, especially when you don’t even know he gave it to you. Last spring, one Kansas City lowlife allegedly attached a GPS to his victim’s car and kept tabs on her every move. One day she left for a trip, and he was “so confident no one would be home that he had a truck and trailer pull into the woman’s driveway” in order to load up $100,000 worth of jewelry, furs, and other valuables. As far as we know, this is an isolated incident, but it never hurts to keep an eye out. If you see a suspicious gadget attached to your car—or are the victim of an auto break-in—call your local police immediately.