For many years, car thefts were on the decline. But now, your vehicle once again may be a target for crooks.
In January, the National Insurance Crime Bureau reported that car thefts jumped 9.2% in 2020. It marked “the largest theft year in the past decade by a significant margin,” according to the NICB.
Now, a scarcity of new and used cars for sale means cars are becoming more valuable. Used car prices are up nearly 30% from a year ago, CNBC reports.
That trend makes vehicles that are already on the street increasingly desirable to thieves.
Several other factors have also helped to create a “perfect storm” that is contributing to rising car theft, David Glawe, NICB president and CEO, told CNBC:
“We have a lot of disenfranchised youth that are unemployed, and outreach programs are shut down or limited due to Covid. There is frustration and anger in society. We are also seeing public safety resource limitations and withdrawal of proactive policing due to budget constraints.”
There is another factor behind the increase in thefts: the humble key fob.
The New York Times reports that the adoption of keyless ignitions — which for a long time helped prevent car thefts — now may be partially responsible for the surge in stolen cars.
People are leaving their key fobs — which contain a microchip that unlocks engine immobilizers — sitting in their cup holders, the newspaper reports. Such carelessness is creating a new opening for thieves.
As thefts rise, some cities are feeling the pain more than others.
Chicago drivers are at especially high risk of seeing their vehicles stolen. The city recorded a 134% increase in vehicle thefts last year, according to the NICB, and carjackings in the city doubled. Thefts are also up significantly in New York City and Washington, D.C.
How to protect your vehicle from thieves
To keep your vehicle safe, the NICB recommends you use common sense with your car. This includes such simple measures as locking doors and windows, and parking in well-lit areas.
In addition, consider installing:
- Audible warning devices and other deterrents. Visible deterrents — such as column collars, steering wheel locks and brake locks — can scare off crooks.
- Immobilizing devices. For extra protection, install these devices, which prevent crooks from bypassing the ignition and hot-wiring the vehicle. Such devices include smart keys, fuse cut-offs, kill switches and wireless ignition authentication.
- Tracking devices. Systems that combine GPS and wireless technologies allow remote monitoring of your car. If the vehicle moves, you will be notified.
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