Auto theft rises in the summer. Here's how to prevent your car from getting stolen

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By Frances Yue, USA TODAY

Got plans to travel this summer? 

Have fun but make sure your car is secure. 

Average daily auto thefts from the beginning of June through August have been higher than the annual average during the years 2011 through 2017,according to data provided by the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) to USA TODAY. 

The average number of thefts a day totaled 2,207 during those summer months, compared with an average of 2,067 a day for the entire year over that span of time, according to NICB. 

In 2017, the most recent data available, an average of 2,325 vehicles were stolen each day from June 1 to Aug. 31, compared with the annual average of 2,228.

“Summertime is usually the peak of vehicle theft in the year,” says Frank Scafidi, director of public affairs at NICB. Though there is no clear reason, Scafidi says it might be because people tend to take more vacations and road trips in the summer

“The more vehicles that you have on the road or perhaps even away from home, spending a night or two in a motel or something, it just elevates the risk,” says Scafidi, director of public affairs at NICB. 

Auto theft has been increasing overall as higher prices and keyless start technology make vehicles more alluring to thieves. One problem is that thousands of people are leaving key fobs in their vehicles, whether intentionally or unintentionally, which can allow thieves to enter the car or truck and drive off without even finding the key.

Why auto theft is spiking: Drivers are leaving key fobs in their cars

“You do have to be aware that with all that convenience comes ... the element of risk. Be aware of it and that's half the battle,” Scafidi says.  

1. Common sense  

Remove your keys from the ignition, lock the doors, close the window, and park your car in a well-lit area every time, according to NICB. Also, don't leave the key in the car, even if it's hidden.

It sounds simple, obvious and easy to follow, but not everybody does it. In 2018, 81,911 vehicle thefts involved the car’s key being used to steal the vehicle. That was up 4.9% from 2017, according to NICB.  

“Don't leave the car running even for 20 seconds if you're going to get out ... because that's all it takes for somebody to jump in and steal a car,” says Scafidi. 

2. Warning device  

You can deter a thief by installing audible alarms, steering wheel locks and decals. You can also etch the vehicle identification number onto the windows, which will lower the vehicle's value to thieves, as they have to spend time and money on removing it before reselling the car. 

Scafidi recommended using a steering wheel lock, like the Club, which can discourage a thief "who doesn't have a lot of time to get into a car and try to figure out how to steal it.”   

“When they [the thieves] see a Club on the steering wheel, they will think, 'You know what, I'll just keep going. Could I find an easier target?'” Scafidi said.

3. Immobilizing Device 

You can also install immobilizing devices, such as fuse cut-offs, kill switches and ignition disablers, which prevent the vehicle from starting unless a hidden switch or button is activated. You can get a kill switch on Amazon for less than $15. 

4. Tracking Device

If a thief steals your car, tracking devices can help get it back. When your car is stolen, they help notify the police or a monitoring station to recover it, hopefully before it is stripped or taken out of the country. 

Scafidi cited the example of LoJack stolen vehicle recovery system, which integrated with state and local law enforcement and has a suggested retail price of $695, according to the manufacturer’s website. 

After law enforcement officials input the lost vehicle into the National Crime Database, the LoJack System will be activated and send out signals from the stolen car. Law enforcement officers will then locate the car using tracking computers. 

Some systems use telematics technology that allows remote control of cars. Such systems include BMW AssistMercedes-Benz's mbrace and AcuraLink, which require monthly fees. GM’s subsidiary OnStar offers a security plan at $24.99 per month.

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Autos Magazine: Auto theft rises in the summer. Here's how to prevent your car from getting stolen
Auto theft rises in the summer. Here's how to prevent your car from getting stolen
Car theft peaks in the summer, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau. So follow these tips to maximize your chances at avoiding theft.
Autos Magazine
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