Go Ahead, Steal My Car

February 17th, 2011

Chicago Jeep owner's sign

Car thefts are going up again, after a year’s decline. In Chicago, crime overall was down 10.6 percent, but car thefts went up 21.8 percent, compared to January 2010. Las Vegas has 20.3 motor vehicle thefts per 1,000 residents; the U.S. average is 3.15.

Well, why not? A lot of folks have bad nights at the craps table. “The key is under the seat, Frank.”

The economy is still sucking air for most people, and one researcher finds three main reasons for stealing cars: for transport to commit other crimes, to sell to chop shops, or to resell as a complete vehicle, sometimes overseas.

Now there’s another reason: Hard-pressed owners are ditching their cars in lakes or just walking away from them, as they do from upside-down mortgages. Or they try to collect on the insurance—which is called fraud.

Let’s assume you are on the right side of the law and want to keep your car from being stolen. The best way to do that is to own a car that nobody wants to steal. Check out DealFinder for numerous examples. The next-best way is to understand how thieves work. See an example of smart thievery in the video below.

It is actually easier to steal a car now (if you’re a computer geek with a laptop) than in the old days of breaking a window or forcing a lock. With keyless-entry cars (those operating with key fobs), a smart crook can hack into the 40-bit code to disengage the alarm, gain entry, start the car, and do it all in 15 seconds. And a Swiss team recently did it with a couple of antennas.

Most car alarms have become a joke, since they go off so frequently that no one pays any attention. And they are so aggravating that you want someone to steal that car, please. But there are some good anti-theft devices; some alarms have pagers that notify you when the alarm is activated. By which time, of course, your car may be long gone.

So what’s a poor car-owner to do? We gave you some advice on this score back in August, and it still holds. The most important things: Keep your car always locked, hold on to that key fob, and use a steering-wheel bar, like The Club.

Thieves love to steal GPS units and target cars with suction cup marks on the windshield, knowing that most units get stowed in the glove compartment. Does your car have a windshield-mounted GPS?

—jgoods

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  1. February 17th, 2011 at 19:17 | #1

    Modern cars really cant be stolen unless you flatbed them and modern cars deadlock so breaking a window still will NOT get a door open and modern less than 15 year old cars cant be started at all without the factory supplied key which contains a chip configured to that particular vehicle. Or has the US insurance industry not caught up with the rest of the planet and demanded this?

  1. May 10th, 2011 at 11:37 | #1