Reducing Car Theft and Break Ins

By Angela Monroe - January 17, 2022

lfp car safety

Avoiding car theft and/or break-ins is something all motorists want to achieve. But it’s not so easy.

We take a look at car crime and list ways to keep your property safe and secure.

Firstly, some precautions that are easy to take.

car door lock

Don’t give thieves a reason

Many car thieves are opportunistic so they’ll target cars with visible bags or valuables inside when they peer inside through windows. They may also try car doors and stumble upon an unlocked one.

  • NEVER LEAVE CAR DOORS UNLOCKED
  • NEVER LEAVE VALUABLES OR BAGS IN YOUR CAR

Park safely

If you’re street parking, especially in quiet or poorly lit areas can attract thieves. Some thieves target apartment car parks in the early hours when residents are asleep. Car parks near public transport are a risk during the day when owners are at work.

  • TRY TO PARK IN BUSY, WELL-LIT LOCATIONS
  • INCREASE SECURITY WITH CCTV AND ADDITIONAL ALARMS

Car key risk

Did you know that around 70% of car thefts occur with their own keys? It happens when keys are stolen in a burglary or bag theft prior to stealing the car.

  • KEEP YOUR CAR KEYS IN YOUR POCKET OR A SAFE PLACE WHEN YOU CAN
  • DO NOT LEAVE CAR KEYS NEAR THE FRONT DOOR OR WINDOWS OR OBVIOUS PLACES AT HOME
  • KEEP SPARE CAR KEYS WELL HIDDEN AND NEVER LEAVE THEM IN THE CAR

Extra precautions

Putting your name and address on a tag attached to car keys may seem like a nice idea but think again. Thieves can use this information to find your home and car if they come into possession of the keys.

  • Avoid putting these details on your keys

More eyes and ears can really boost security so get to know your neighbours and always communicate any crime or security issues.

Why do thieves steal cars?

cctv

This may seem obvious – cars are worth money. But there are a few reasons why thieves steal cars. The reasons below are in no particular order.

Part them out

Selling the parts of a stolen car can be more profitable than selling the vehicle as a whole. Thieves sell the parts online, on social media and even to wreckers. Some parts have serial numbers and some don’t. Some buyers and wreckers check and some don’t.

It’s even been found that some thieves have a “shopping list” of parts from specific cars from criminal networks. For example, someone might have purchased a damaged vehicle for cheap, needing parts to repair it and sell it for profit and “put out an order” for the parts.

To get around

Some cars are stolen simply so the thieves can get around for a while. This can include joy riding too.

There have actually been reports of thieves using a car for a while only for it to be found undamaged, albeit with a bone-dry tank.

To commit other crimes

Another common reason cars are stolen is for use in other crimes like drug trafficking or breaking into more cars and homes.

The stolen vehicle acts as transport for thieves to move around to different areas to commit crimes, especially if the owner isn’t aware of the theft for a few hours.

Rebirthing

This means removing vehicle identification information to hide the fact that it’s stolen or using parts from stolen vehicles to repair written-off vehicles to sell as profit.

Sometimes, identification is taken from a wrecked vehicle and put on a stolen vehicle to “prove” it’s not stolen.

One tactic involves stealing a car, removing all valuable and identifying parts then leaving the car in a public place. Once it’s reported as stolen and removed, thieves actually buy the shell only to put the parts back on and sell the vehicle on – at huge profit, of course.

Fortunately, police and technology are catching up, making this harder for criminals to achieve.

Other reasons

There are other reasons why people want to steal cars, for example, just for the thrill of it. 

Some organised crime rings even sell the vehicle overseas, although not so common in Australia.

How are cars stolen?

A few decades ago, crime news often told us that “hot-wiring” was the way thieves stole cars. 

Hot-wiring means accessing and connecting wires to complete circuits in order to power components needed to start a car like the fuel pump and ignition system. Different vehicles have different wiring systems but the schematics can often be found online.

Modern cars are far more sophisticated as manufacturers and governments have taken steps to prevent car theft. For example, immobilisers, which have been mandatory in Australia since 2001, require the correct key fob present in order to start the car. When the key is turned in the ignition, the correct code needs to match for the vehicle to start.

Nowadays, the most common way cars are stolen are by thieves actually stealing the keys. It seems new technology is too difficult to bypass which is a good thing.

Keys can get stolen in a home burglary or bag theft for example. In some cases, thieves know of homes where people leave car keys on hooks or tables near the front door, perhaps from peering through windows or even visiting the home previously.

Car break-ins are more common

Often, thieves simply break into cars to steal what’s inside, rather than stealing the whole vehicle.

Some opportunistic thieves wander the streets at night, trying dozens, if not hundreds, of car doors. Even if just one is unlocked, it might make it worthwhile for them.

Always lock your car no matter how long you leave it unattended. Yep, that means when paying for petrol too.

Other times, thieves use a ‘smash and grab’ technique which simply means smashing a window, grabbing what they can and running off. This is usually the case when people leave visible valuables (or anything worth stealing) in sight. 

If your car gets broken into

It’s awful coming back to a car to find it broken into with things missing. Many victims feel violated and traumatised. 

Here’s what to do if you car is broken into

  1. Call the police immediately AND before touching things too much. Hopefully, the police might get evidence and you’ll be able to photo everything for insurance or records.
  2. Check your wallet and garage remotes. If your valuables are missing, cancel bank cards immediately. Also, if your garage remotes or house keys are stolen, you may need to change your home’s locks.
  3. Check if any personal information is missing. Thieves might be able to use it against you. For example, receipts or documents with your name and address or car service logbook. You may need to update passwords or seek professional advice to avoid identity theft.
  4. Look for witnesses and/or CCTV. This might assist the police and help prevent future crime.

Some people leave spare keys to cars in plain sight in homes or even inside the car itself – a huge mistake.

If your spare car keys are stolen, you might need to take drastic measures like removing the car battery or fuses to prevent thieves from returning and stealing the vehicle. 

It’s not all bad news

family car

Fortunately, car theft is decreasing in Australia as cars become more difficult to steal and/or break into and CCTV is much more common. In fact, nowadays, you can purchase a simple WiFi CCTV camera for under $100.

There’s been a nearly 80% reduction in car theft over the last 20 years, partly thanks to the mandate of immobilisers, but also more awareness and CCTV.

Here are some car theft stats in Australia over the last two decades. The Figures are approximate.

2000: 129,700
2003: 100,900
2006: 75,000
2009: 61,300
2012: 58,800
2015: 51,500
2018: 52,700
2021: 47,800

Older cars are usually more attractive to thieves as they’re easier to break into and have less-sophisticated anti-theft measures.

If your car is feeling insecure, it might be time for an upgrade.

Angela Monroe
Angela Monroe is the Community Manager at The Positive Group, specialising in giving people the information that they need when they need it, and putting you on the path to a fair financial future. She has 8 years of experience in helping Australians find the right finance solutions, and regularly contributes articles to empower Australians with the knowledge they need to become financially healthy.

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