Car break-in

Some facts: We’re heading into Independence Day weekend; the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) reports that the holiday has the 7th-highest theft numbers of any holiday; annually, the summer season is high-time for higher theft figures; and July is Auto Theft Awareness Month.

Sounds like the perfect time for motorists to be on guard. Here are some anti-theft tips from sure-fire sources:

Keep Your Key with You

The Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD), which polices a city where vehicle theft makes up almost a fourth of all property crimes, says that car thieves will take any chance to make off in your ride.

And leaving your keys anywhere but your pocket is giving those thieves a big chance. From the LAPD:

  • Never leave your car running unattended, even to dash into a business, store, or home.
  • Never leave any keys in the car or ignition, inside a locked garage, or in hide-a-key boxes.

More info:
[Cars with keyless entry or key codes can still be vulnerable to theft], according to the NICB. So owners of such cars, which are typically later-model vehicles with anti-theft technology, should still be wary.

Never Leave Valuables in Sight

More from the LAPD:

  • Never leave valuables in plain view, even if your car is locked. Put them in the trunk out of sight.

But car thieves target more than just the valuables in your car—parts of your car can be just as valuable.

According to the [National Highway Traffic Safety Administration], vehicle thieves can strip a car down in a half-hour. Plus, the final payoff for parts is often worth several times more than the vehicle itself.

“Radios and wheel covers aren’t the only popular stolen vehicle parts thieves take,” the federal officials say. “They want whatever sells, from the mandated labeled parts to those that aren’t. Among some of the most popular parts or items left in vehicles are: engine, transmission, air bags, radios, GPS units, iPods, laptops, and purses.”

More info:
Online Auto Insurance has the lowdown on theft of catalytic converters and tailgates.

Close and Lock All Windows and Doors

About half of all car thefts are “due to driver error,” according to the NHTSA.

Leaving your doors and/or windows open is a big mistake. The LAPD says a driver should lock up and close everything in the vehicle even if it is parked “in front of your home.”

More info:
Even at a gas station, leaving your door/window ajar can be the crucial slipup a thief is looking for, according to a video advisory from the NHTSA.

Park in Well-lit Areas

No thief wants to do his business in full view. According to the NHTSA, more than half of car thefts happen in “areas where vehicles are parked without attendants.”

So leave your car in a high-traffic, well-lit area to ward off criminals.

More info:
California has long held the unwanted title of “state with the highest number of car thefts,” according to the NICB. But a closer look at theft figures in the Golden State sheds a little more light (no pun intended) on the issue. According to USA Today, the three Californian spots where cars are stolen most are Barkersfield, Fresno and Modesto, in the state’s “less populous farm belt.” Those areas need less lighting for less people, but that also means a bigger chance for thieves.