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Car Prowling: Staying Safe in Parking Lots

Mammoth Sniper Challenge
Mammoth Sniper Challenge
May 15, 2017
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My city consistently ranks in the top 10 for auto theft and car prowling is almost an epidemic. When I worked in partnership with my local police department (first as a communication intern in the crime analysis unit and then as a social media coordinator for the affiliated non-profit crime prevention division), I picked up several strategies for crime prevention.In a perfect world, bad guys who steal your stuff would not exist. But we live in an imperfect world. It's up to you to make your vehicle less of a target. Many criminals keep their eyes out for easy marks, like an unlocked car door with a package in plain sight. The harder you can make it to mess with your stuff, the less likely a criminal will try. Make your vehicle an unappealing choice by taking these steps.

Hide Identifying Papers in the Trunk

While it is a less common crime, some car prowlers will break into a car as part of an identity theft scheme. They will steal the insurance card and registration to get valuable pieces of information used to steal your identity. Others will use the stolen registration to lead them to an empty home to break into while the car's owner runs errands or watches a movie. These types of thefts happen enough in my city that the police aren't even phased when they pull citizens over, ask for their license and registration, and have the citizens say they hid them in their trunk. Few thieves will look beyond your glove compartment box for these documents, so hiding them under a seat or in the trunk is a safe bet. If you do get pulled over, explain to the cop where your documents are and ask them how they would like you to fetch them.

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Remove All Items From Sight

It's time to finally clean out your car. The more empty your car is, the better. Leaving phone chargers and gym bags in plain sight can catch the eye of a hopeful prowler. What matter is what could be valuable, not what is actually valuable. You may know that old bag is only full of cheap laundry, but a potential thief doesn't. My old college friend once lost an entire garbage bag of sweaty dirty laundry to a car thief (he was upset, while we were more upset that his colored skinny jeans weren't in that load). In my city, car prowlers will even break in just to steal the handful of loose change in the cupholder. Thieves look for an easy steal, so keep items out of sight.


Always Hide the Garage Door Opener

If you park your vehicle outside your garage, make sure not to leave the garage door opener within sight. Thieves will break into your car to get the opener, which they can then use to get easier entrance into your home. Placing the garage door opener in your vehicle console or the glove box should do the trick.

Install a Car Alarm

These are relatively cheap to install and can be a great deterrent. If you can, install one that gives off a blinking red light on the dash.

car prowling lock

Lock Your Doors

You'd be surprised at how few people lock their vehicles...and how often thieves discover this easy opportunity. In the few minutes it takes you to run back into the store or back into your home, a thief could already be taking off with your valuables. Always, always, always lock your vehicle.

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