Auto burglaries are the most common criminal matter we face. Although they typically involve relatively low dollar amounts, they create a hassle for residents, erode neighbors’ feelings of safety and security, and ultimately affect our insurance premiums. Most concerning, each successful burglary creates a more inviting environment in the mind of a criminal and emboldens him or her for the next act.
Law enforcement officers consider auto burglaries a crime of opportunity, and easy targets create more opportunity. Your best option is to store vehicles inside your garage. If you cannot do this, a few simple steps can greatly reduce the likelihood of this crime and dampen our neighborhood’s appeal to would-be thieves.
Nearly all car break-ins, especially those that occur outside of homes, are the result of unlocked doors (or unlocking of car doors using advanced technologies). Rarely do criminals break windows. A quick check of the door handle will tell most thieves if your vehicle is his next target or if he needs to keep looking.
Past conventional wisdom has sometimes included keeping car doors unlocked to reduce the risk of a broken window. What law enforcement has reported, however, is that this action only encourages criminals to return to a neighborhood.
Because criminals typically target cars in suburban residential areas at night and want to have the cover of darkness, light is a great deterrent.
Install out-of-reach motion-sensor flood lights around the perimeter of your home and move any cars that cannot fit inside of your garage into the driveway each night.
Report any nearby malfunctioning streetlights directly to TECO. You may use their Lights Out form (available at http://www.tampaelectric.com) or call (813) 223-0800. You’ll be asked to provide the pole number (posted on each pole) and the pole’s physical address.
Even if you don’t have motion-sensor flood lights installed, removing cars from the street has the added benefit of requiring a would-be burglar to move farther outside of his or her comfort zone. Studies have shown that a car parked on the street is nearly three times more likely to be targeted by criminals than a car parked in a driveway. As the number of vehicles parked on our streets increase, so do our crime rates.
Take valuable items (e.g., GPS, laptop, car keys, and purse) inside with you. If you are at a location where you cannot do this, place them in the trunk. At night, remove all boxes, bags, and cases. Even if you know there is nothing valuable inside of them, a burglar may be tempted to find out.
When thinking about valuables, it is important to understand a criminal’s mindset. Although many of us may not think much about a few dollars of stolen loose change, criminals frequently use loose change to purchase drugs. With drugs available for only $10 on the street, a little loose change can become a big motivator to the wrong person.
Consider adding a quality alarm system to your vehicle. Choose one that includes motion detection.
For newer vehicles, check with the manufacturer to see if the vehicle integrates with a smartphone app (e.g., Ford’s SecuriAlert). Some of these apps can provide useful information, including an audible alert if the vehicle door is opened during the night.
Do not leave a spare key (for your vehicle, your family member’s vehicle, or your home) hidden inside of your vehicle. This includes garage door openers. Also check the glove compartment of any new vehicles; the extra key FOB may have been placed here by the manufacturer or dealership.
If your vehicle has keyless entry, move the FOB as far away from the front of your home as possible or place it in a protective sleeve (like RFID sleeves for credit cards) to reduce the likelihood of criminals using a secondary device to thwart your system.
Record serial numbers of all after-market components added to your vehicle (e.g., after-market stereo components). Law enforcement has access to a nationwide online database that pawn shops use to enter serial numbers for all incoming merchandise. If a match is found, you significantly increase the odds of catching the thief and having your items returned. (Even if no match is found, this list may still come in handy with your insurance company.)
Sources: Florida Attorney General’s Office; “Crime Prevention Starts with You” presented by the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office and Tampa Police Department at the Hillsborough County Neighborhood Conference (May 2015); The Center for Problem-Oriented Policing; Multiple HCSO and TPD Informal Interviews and Discussions
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