Add to your security equipment
If you drive a modern car, the chances are it comes with an alarm and an immobiliser. But there are plenty of other ways to protect your pride and joy. Steering wheel locks, which fit over your steering wheel and hold them in place so that a thief can’t steer properly, aren’t infallible, but they do provide a deterrent for opportunistic thieves. Locks that do the same job for your gearstick or your pedals are also available.
Or if you’ve got a little more money to spend, why not consider a tracking device? You’ll pay upfront for the device to be installed and then pay a small annual subscription fee, but if your car is stolen, the police will be able to locate it.
Use the security features your car already has
Modern cars are full of clever security features, but you might not use – or even be aware of – all of them. For instance, did you know that many modern cars have systems which enable them to lock automatically as you pull away? Enabling these systems will help protect you against car-jackings – surely one of the scariest possible ways of having your car stolen.
What’s more, some modern cars have lights that will stay on for a set time – usually 30 seconds – after you’ve left them. These systems are great for getting you to your door safely and ensuring someone isn’t lurking in the shadows. Check your user manual to see whether you have such a system fitted to your car and to find out how to activate it.
Think about where you keep your keys
Car security systems have advanced so far now that the easiest way for a thief to steal the car is often to steal the keys themselves. This can mean picking them from your pocket, or even stealing them from your house.
So think about which pocket you’re keeping your keys in when you’re out and about. And when you’re at home, make sure you don’t leave your keys near to an open window, or even within reach of the letterbox. Some nefarious criminals have taken to ‘fishing’ through the letterbox for keys using a hooked length of wire.
But don’t take your keys upstairs to bed with you. We’ve heard of an increasing number of cases in which criminals have broken in and threatened car owners when they haven’t found the keys they wanted downstairs. Better, we think, to have the car stolen than to have your family put at risk by robbers.
Keep an eye on your number plates
Have you ever come out to your car to find its number plates missing? It’s more than just a minor inconvenience if it does happen to you – you should report it to the police immediately.
Some criminals are stealing car number plates and then fitting them to their own similar-looking cars to perform crimes, such as filling up with fuel at a petrol station and driving off without paying. They know the police will check CCTV footage and come and talk to you about a crime you had nothing to do with. So if you spot your number plates are missing, it’s essential that you report it.
Don’t leave your car running unattended
It might seem like you’ll be away from the car for such a short time that it’s not worth turning the engine off – perhaps you’re just popping into a shop, or are dashing into the house to pick up something you left behind. But an opportunist thief only needs a couple of seconds to have your pride and joy away.
The same goes if you’re de-icing your car on a cold winter morning – some thieves won’t think twice about running you down as they jump into the driver’s seat and speed off.
And if your car’s stolen while it’s been left running like this, your insurance will be invalidated – so not only will you go through the hassle and stress of losing your car, but you won’t get any payout.
And if the worst happens...
...and your car is stolen, get a friend or a relative to drive you around the local area. Check down side streets, in public car parks and look for areas where thieves might like to hide a car.
The recent "pinch and park" trend means that thieves nowadays are resorting to stealing a car by burgling the keys, and then parking it up somewhere else for a short period. The reason they do this is to check the car hasn't got a tracking device. If it's still there after a couple of weeks, the chances are it hasn't - so the thieves can safely return to collect the car without the risk of a tracking device leading the police straight to them.
So if your car is stolen, it makes sense to check the local area as thoroughly as you can. You never know – you might just find it parked up in a side road.