shouting 'damn kids' whilst shaking fist
November 29, 2006 1:32 AM   Subscribe

RantFilter: What can I do to curtail vandalism on my car?

** tl;dr people can skip this bit **

A couple of months ago I bought a 1992 jeep, not only my first car but also the car I've wanted since I was a kid. It's not ultra flash, the paintwork's not immaculate, but it's been modded with big offroad wheels, bull bars, and a roof rack, so it does stand out in that old-but-funky kind of way.

Now I'm the sort of person who when I get something new I get paranoid / fawn over it a bit, so since I discovered there was a history of car crime in my street, I've been pretty vigilant. Nothing major, just stuff like making sure I park right outside my front window (or if my spot's taken I move my car as soon as it becomes free), curtain twitching if there's a loud noise outside, and checking on it through the window every now and again. (And I've put a big fat chain and padlock round the bottom of the driver's seat through the steering wheel).

** tl;dr people start here **

A couple of times this last week I've been in the house and heard a noise sounding very much like something hitting my jeep as people walk past, but every time I went to the window I couldn't see any damage or anyone hanging round it, so dismissed it as paranoia - until I noticed today the drivers side door had been keyed, and realisation dawned that yes, it had been hit when I thought it had, and the other couple of small dents that had mysteriously appeared have probably been done in the same way.

I know full well there's a few kids in the area that a) have been eyeing up my car for joyriding (happened to the girl over the road's car last week), and b) have noticed that I curtain twitch when there's a noise outside, so are doing these small acts of vandalism on my car as they walk past to wind me up. You know the score, mefites - sometimes in life certain people will notice you care about something and have to piss on your fire for their own gratification.

This might not seem like a big deal, but not only can I not afford the car to get damaged, but it's exactly the sort of small town bullshit that gets me down, and I can only see it getting worse. Not to mention I'm slightly concerned that the next time I suspect my car's been hit I'm gonna run out into the street with a baseball bat and end up with a much heavier question for askmefi.

So... what are my options? I've phoned the police already, who were surprisingly helpful on the phone, and the only other things I can think are a) install a cheap security camera outside my house, but I haven't really got expendable cash at the moment, or b) sell the jeep (which would be at a loss after all I've spent on it) and drive an unmodded one that I'm not so attached to - but why should I be bullied into that position??

Sorry I'm not more concise - it's a fault, I'm working on it
posted by chrissyboy to Grab Bag (32 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
buy a security system for it.
posted by sophist at 1:49 AM on November 29, 2006


like so
posted by sophist at 1:54 AM on November 29, 2006


You've got a computer. A webcam is just 20$, max. Get that and set it up. You might just possibly get their face. Then you can put it all over the neighborhood.

Otherwise, I don't have a lot to offer. When I was 17, I restored a 1972 VW Bug and repainted it a beautiful red... and the second week of high school someone keyed the length of it. The saddest thing is that they couldn't have benefited- no stereo to pawn, no nothing. But I think a camera is the way to go, as this kind of vandalism has no logic.
posted by fake at 1:59 AM on November 29, 2006


Contact the local antisocial behaviour unit? (Particularly if you manage to get photos - chances are the little scrotes are already known to someone.)

Or on a more defensive note... Rent a garage?
posted by handee at 2:10 AM on November 29, 2006


I think the only real answer is to find someplace more secure to park it.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 2:26 AM on November 29, 2006


I say go the webcam route. If you have a PC and a cheap webcam you're set. Some time ago downloadsquad posted a link to a DIY (read: free) webcam based security system that stored pics on your hard drive. The beauty of the setup is you can specify how often pictures are taken (ie 5 sec, 30 secs, 1 min) or it will snap a pick anytime motion is detected.

The original post on downloadsquad can be found here and the direct link to the instructions can be found here.

Good luck!
posted by ASM at 2:37 AM on November 29, 2006 [3 favorites]


Is a safer place to park it out of your budget? I really think that's the best solution in this situation.
And could someone please tell me what tl;dr means? or does that not affect the "facts" of the question?
posted by bunglin jones at 2:45 AM on November 29, 2006


If it's being looked at for joyriding, how about removing something vital when you leave it parked overnight? A removable steering wheel, or just disconnect something under the hood.

I'll also go with the webcam idea, BUT NOT A WEBCAM. Unless you park pretty damn close to the window all you're going to get are blurry smudges where faces should be. Get a cheap DV camcorder and hook that up the same way, then use the optical zoom to get in close on your Jeep.
posted by lemonfridge at 2:54 AM on November 29, 2006


tl;dr = too long, didn't read.
posted by thirteenkiller at 3:23 AM on November 29, 2006


Maybe you could cut your hair Travis Bickle style and actually live in the car for a few days, over a weekend.

Alternatively you could rig up this.
posted by strawberryviagra at 4:26 AM on November 29, 2006


Even if you get a camera, and IF you get a picture of the thugs in the act, and IF they are known to police and IF they get caught and IF they get successfully prosecuted, what's the upside for you? They are just going to take a baseball bat to the camera before they go totally medieval on the car the next time, or they'll take a baseball bat to you for landing them in juvie for a month.

More secure parking or less sensitive car are the only ways to go, I think.
posted by Rock Steady at 4:42 AM on November 29, 2006


Not to mention I'm slightly concerned that the next time I suspect my car's been hit I'm gonna run out into the street with a baseball bat

Heh, well. When I first bought a car, I felt the same way about it, and something similar happened. I heard someone outside messing with my ride, and ran out to see what was up. They were gone, but had indeed taken a dislike to my car for some reason. So, I put up a little sign in the window, something like "WARNING: Touching this car may result in bruises, black eyes, broken bones. Approach at your own risk." Something like that. It was printed on a little card that the previous owner had left in the back of the car. Depending on your image and the personality of your car's enemies, that approach might do more harm than good. But it worked for me.
posted by sfenders at 5:08 AM on November 29, 2006


have to agree with the garage idea. a camera won't make any difference (and may, in my state at least, be illegal)--yeah, you'll see the damage done, and maybe the perpetrator, but the end result will still be the same: damaged car.
posted by lester's sock puppet at 5:25 AM on November 29, 2006


So... what are my options?

As your question seems quite open-ended, I feel it's within the scope to post a somewhat "alternative" reply, friend.

You have owned your dream car. That is good. Take it out for a long drive this coming weekend, take photos, revel in your connection with a good thing. Now it is a part of you, forever.

But in the end, this connection will only bring you grief. Let go. You don't need a car. Or even if you do, you don't need a special fancy one. Sell it - one less thing to worry about.

Good luck to you, be happy.
posted by Meatbomb at 5:42 AM on November 29, 2006 [1 favorite]


Enclosed parking is ideal as has been mentioned. Even if it is more inconvenient for you it will give you peace of mind. Second best option is to put a car cover on it. I doubt that will help but sometimes out of sight is out of mind.
posted by JJ86 at 5:42 AM on November 29, 2006


Maybe even a sign just saying you're videotaping would help out?
posted by itchie at 6:03 AM on November 29, 2006


Along with JJ's comment, if you get a car cover, see if you can lock it down, i.e. chains/padlocks around each wheel or some sort. It would be a pain in the ass to put on and take off on a daily basis, but I suppose that's kind of the point in this situation. They can still smash out your windows or dent the doors I suppose, but it'll probably cut down on vandalism and you won't get keyed.
posted by craven_morhead at 6:03 AM on November 29, 2006


Have you thought about getting one of those big cloth (?) covers that some people put over their cars. I think they are mostly used by people who want to put their car in storage to protect it from sun damage, and taking it on and off every day might be a hassle, but I can't imagine any opportunistic vandals would be peering under car coverings in search of something worth destroying.

This might be too late for you if the vandals already are after your car, but if you start parking somewhere else, it might throw them off the scent.

[You could even post a "For Sale" sign for a couple of days, then move it somewhere else on the street with the car cover on it.]
posted by andoatnp at 6:11 AM on November 29, 2006


I think signs and cameras and covers will just make your samurai more tempting for vandals. If you have no choice but to park on the street, you're probably going to have to either get a dowdier car, or just live with it.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 6:24 AM on November 29, 2006


Personally, I'm not a big fan of the 'i dont have the money' excuse. You can always make time and money for the things you care about. If this car means that much to you then a garage space or a safer spot is doable. Cut costs elsewhere. Street parking is always a risk.
posted by damn dirty ape at 7:03 AM on November 29, 2006


I think you're going to have to wait in the car wearing a ski mask, when they appear and do their thing: kick their ass with a blunt object and then run inside and remove your top layer of clothes (didn't I mention you should wear those?). Ditch the blunt object inside a previously prepaired a/c duct.. Then go back outside and be very sympathetic while calling for police and EMS. You then proceed to tell them you walked in on the whole situation and the perp/s had surprised someone who looked like they were trying to steal your car. Sure they'll know it was you. That's the point. Can they PROVE it was? Will the cops give a crap, knowing what the little fuckers were up to?

This is a terrible idea, just ignore it. Get the car alarm, it'll cause you less grief and you can take our your anger in a more constructive way.
posted by IronLizard at 7:07 AM on November 29, 2006


It totally looks like fun from the pictures!

What is it worth to you to stop the petty vandalism? Is it worth sitting at the front window, twitching and looking out the window every time you hear a noise? Is it worth getting a video camera and monitoring it and trying to catch someone?

The dings and scratches probably don't affect the functionality of the car, so I'm inclined to say try not to let this get to you too much. It will upset you exactly as much as you let it. If it starts to upset you so much that it pushes the balance towards not enjoying the car, then it's not worth it.

I know it sounds easy for me to say, harder for you to do, and to some extent that's true. I just hate to see something that should make you happy instead become the source of unhappiness.
posted by KAS at 8:22 AM on November 29, 2006


I would take a baseball bat to the jeep and mess it up real good, always keep it muddy and nasty, and just generally make people want to look at it and say "damn, that thing's already messed up enough."
posted by zhivota at 8:54 AM on November 29, 2006


> but it's exactly the sort of small town bullshit that gets me down, and I can only see it getting worse.

And that is exactly why they are doing it. It's virtually a past time in small towns to pick on folks to get a reaction from them since such a reaction is something actually happening vs. the stillness and boring nothingness that is small town existence. Your options are reacting and risk increasing the problem or finding a way to defuse the situation. Spend a night in the jeep with a scary halloween mask and when they do it, pop up and yell "Got you!". You'd scare the crap out of them in the short term but also over the long term (Can you believe the lengths he went through?), and yet earn their respect for being creative and possibly foster a better relationship with them. You may not want any relationship with them but like it or not, they've chosen to start one with you.
posted by jwells at 9:08 AM on November 29, 2006


past time pastime
posted by Rash at 9:30 AM on November 29, 2006


lol... well, I knew pasttime was wrong! ;-)
posted by jwells at 9:34 AM on November 29, 2006


a) get the dream car repaired, real nice.

b) stop by walmart on the way home and pick up a red-ryder style BB gun

c) stop by kinko's and make 100 copies of an obnoxious flyer warning people not to damage your car again

d) park it in the same place, put up flyers on poles in neighborhood, on other car's windshields, on your car, cover the block basically

e) camp out on your roof or in a tree or some other inconspicuous spot, with said BB gun

d) do what feels right.
posted by allkindsoftime at 10:39 AM on November 29, 2006


sheesh. I know the feeling. and any steps you take will result in those bullshit reprisals which keep folks like us from moving to such areas. accept the fact that any JEALOUS loser (cuz that's part of it: your car is sexy, they don't like sexy) can key your car. if you call them on it, they'll wave their hands and shout 'hell no' to your accusations.
do you live near or enroute to a school? if so, your car is gonna be seen- the parking structure area is a great idea, if so.
can you mount floodlights in a protected area in front of the house, shining on the car? you want to deny them the space around it.
alarms are pretty cheap...get one on Ebay or ask at a local auto shop if they've got an older model they can't sell. The main thing is to ADD an additional horn, loud as can be, to the line up. Remote triggering would be great, too: you're sitting in bed, you hear the noise, you hit the button and they crap their collective tights.
IF YOU'VE GOT LOADS OF BRASS AND IT'S ALWAYS THE SAME CREW OF KIDS: find out where they live and introduce yourself to the parents. Don't mention the car, never mention the car- ask them if they'd be interested in forming a Neighborhood Watch group or signing a petition to 'add more remote cameras' for police surveillance.
someone kept hitting my car in a bad area: I learned to clear out anything valuable. I also waited for a new nights in darkness. Maybe they saw me, maybe they didn't: they didn't come back.
I now live in a similar area; nobody has bothered my truck, but I have LoJack just in case.
posted by flowerofhighrank at 10:45 AM on November 29, 2006


'a few nights in darkness'
posted by flowerofhighrank at 10:46 AM on November 29, 2006


the bb gun idea is bad- you'll be out-gunned very quickly, it's assault and you'd do adult time, while they would do juvie time and laugh about it (to their friends at least). OUT-THINK THEM IF YOU CAN'T OUTGUN THEM.
posted by flowerofhighrank at 10:52 AM on November 29, 2006


Thanks for all the responses folks, some good info and creative approaches that otherwise would never have crossed my mind.

I'm aware that the answers I've marked as best might seem like they conflict with each other, but I'm going to figure out an order to try them (probably gonna get ASM's webcam setup going this weekend while I'm thinking though), but God do I wanna go with ironlizard's first suggestion.

Meatbomb: Like your style... Somehow I think I'd be a much calmer person if I knew you IRL

jwells: I acutally like this idea, and it deserves real consideration by anyone in this situation, but I just don't think it'd fly round here. Which sucks.
posted by chrissyboy at 9:39 PM on November 29, 2006


Can you "borrow a large dog for a few days? Leave the windows open enough to let the dog's head through, but not the body.

I can just see the little punks walking by your car with their keys out, a snarling mass of canine will scare the crap out of them!

Maybe you could film these encounters, enter them on American Funniest Videos.
posted by JujuB at 10:28 PM on November 29, 2006


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