Car break-ins are all too common across the West. The crime is especially prominent in California, which saw 243,000 thefts from automobiles in 2018, more than any other state in the country. Though the problem has since leveled off or lessened in some California cities, hot spots remain. In March of this year, 1,040 vehicle break-ins were reported in San Francisco. That’s roughly 33 incidents per day.
Car break-ins can take place almost anywhere, anytime, in a matter of seconds; there’s a reason they’re known as ‘smash-and-grabs.’ That makes them difficult to stop. But there are steps you can take towards prevention. Here are tips for making your car a less tempting target, along with guidance on what to do if you become a victim of the crime.
Lock your doors.
Rolling up your windows and pressing the lock button are fundamental steps in crime deterrence. “Unlocked car doors are too easy to pass up for a car burglar,” says Sgt. Christian Camarillo of the San Jose Police Department, adding that you should always double-check your doors after you park.
While it might seem like leaving them unlocked could minimize the cost of smash-and-grabs, you may be inviting thieves to riffle through your glove compartment and trunk, steal or damage internal components, or drive off with your vehicle.
Leave nothing, lose nothing.
A cell phone charger. A pair of cheap sunglasses. An empty grocery bag. Leave nothing loose or visible in your car. Even if the items are of relatively little value to you, they could be a temptation for a thief, according to the San Francisco Police Department. What’s more, that thief might see those items as an indication that you have possessions of greater value hidden elsewhere in your car.
Never leave items in sight, and always take valuables with you. The SFPD recommends that travelers drop their luggage, jewelry, and other valuables, including passports and important documents, at their hotel instead of keeping them in their car.
Garage door openers are another item to be aware of. They’re easy to forget about, but thieves are on the lookout for them, according to the San Jose Police Department, so never leave them in your car.
If you must leave behind any electronics, turn off their Bluetooth before tucking them away in the trunk. Burglars can use a Bluetooth scanner to see what’s inside your vehicle and make off with your computer, tablet, or other gadget.