prevent car windows from being smashed
March 18, 2011 7:54 AM   Subscribe

What can be done to prevent my car window from being smashed?

A week ago our car was broken into in front of our house at night. There was nothing of value to take; they just trashed the interior looking for stuff. I reported this to the police.

On Monday our car was broken into again, this time at a park. The window was smashed and my wife's purse was taken. I discovered this about two minutes later and called the police (after calling our bank).

Last night both our cars and my relative's car, three in total, were parked on the street. All three cars had windows smashed. Nothing of value to steal was in either car (except the faceplate to a CD player, so now it's useless). Talking to the CSI cop who took prints of the cars this morning, I learned that about 15 cars in my neighborhood were broken into last night.

Our deductible is $999, so we're paying out of pocket for all of these windows every time, and this is getting to be pretty damn expensive.

tl;dr: what can I do differently here? Should I leave the doors unlocked from now on so they hopefully don't smash the glass? Ask the glass shop for unbreakable glass? Install a better car alarm (the factory alarm didn't seem to go off, and I find car alarms pretty damn annoying). Install cameras facing the street where we park? Looking for practical steps to take to avoid the paying for windows, or even having them smashed in the first place.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints to Society & Culture (34 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Leave your windows rolled down?

Alternatively, lower your deductible.
posted by muddgirl at 7:55 AM on March 18, 2011

Happened to me once, now I leave my doors unlocked.
posted by unixrat at 7:59 AM on March 18, 2011 [4 favorites]

Pot of coffee and a baseball bat should fix it.
posted by Busmick at 7:59 AM on March 18, 2011 [13 favorites]

They smashed our window three times in seven months until we put the cigarette lighter back in the space in the dash. Our best guess is they thought it was unplugged so we could plug an expensive GPS or the like in it. Leaving the doors unlocked hadn't prevented the smashing, but replacing the lighter did.

So, my advice: keep the interior empty and the cigarette lighter plugged in. No bags that might have something good in them. No cds that indicate a good stereo. No wires that might suggest a GPS. Nothing that looks like to holds change or tools or something pawnable/fencible.
posted by crush-onastick at 7:59 AM on March 18, 2011 [8 favorites]

When I lived in a neighborhood where this sort of thing happened a lot (and it happened to me!), it stopped after I basically followed crush-onastick's advice. Not just leaving the doors unlocked and keeping nothing valuable in the car, but keeping the interior cleaned out so it was clear there was nothing valuable in there. No heaps of stuff that a purse might be hidden under, for instance.
posted by not that girl at 8:04 AM on March 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

We had a clear security film bonded to the inside of the front windows after this kept happening to us, and whilst it didn't stop them *trying* to break the window, they actually didn't manage to get in.

On reflection, it was quite expensive to have done, and meant that we had to keep an emergency escape hammer in the car, but it did seem to stop the problem for a little while at least.

Surely you'd be cheaper just paying directly for the replacement of the window rather than paying the deductible?
posted by car01 at 8:05 AM on March 18, 2011

This happened to me once, right down to them stealing the faceplate off of my now-useless cd player.

Now I leave my doors unlocked all the time, and only lock them if I'm out shopping and need to leave something in the car while I dart inside the store.

My car has been rifled through probably two or three times (that I know of) since I've started leaving my door unlocked. That's $600-$900 (that I know of) that I've saved by not locking my doors.

One word of advice, though: lock your glove box. I had my registration/proof of insurance stolen out of my car about a year ago. The cops said the thief probably thought there was money in the little plastic wallet they're kept in, and that it wasn't an attempt to commit fraud.
posted by phunniemee at 8:05 AM on March 18, 2011

If your neighborhood had 15 cars broken into last night, the local police probably have an idea whether they're dealing with actual thieves or a bunch of hooligans who smash windows for fun. Ask them.

If it's thieves, the above suggestions apply: leave windows open (in Austin, this is a three-season solution), lower your deductible, keep the inside of your car looking austere, if you can keep the glovebox empty and open, that'd be a decent deterrent too.

If it's hooligans... just lower your deductible. Nothing you do is going to be able to stop a bunch of chaotic teenagers from smashing your windows for fun.
posted by juniperesque at 8:05 AM on March 18, 2011

In my neighborhood, there are occasional incidents of multiple cars having their windows smashed; it's not necessarily that the smashers are looking to steal anything - sometimes smashing is the point. And short of locking your car in a garage, I don't think there's anything you can do about that kind of thing.

Otherwise, keep nothing that even looks like it has value visible in the car (like, that plastic bag that has trash in it? Thief might hope it has something good), and don't let things stay plugged in/not plugged in that make it look like you've got a GPS or iPod hidden in the glove compartment. Even that's no guarantee.

On preview, what everyone else who types faster has said.
posted by rtha at 8:06 AM on March 18, 2011

Oh yeah, and there is nothing in my car aside from a (crappy, paint-stained) drop cloth to keep the back clean and some floor mats. This was also the case when the car got broken into, except for that tantalizing cd player faceplate. (I mean, christ, if you're going to break my window, at least successfully steal the damn player.) Ugh. Douchebags.
posted by phunniemee at 8:08 AM on March 18, 2011 [2 favorites]

Your car insurance may offer the option of no deductible on glass losses, regardless of the regular collision/comprehensive deductible. Almost every company that writes car insurance here in MN does.
posted by chazlarson at 8:09 AM on March 18, 2011 [2 favorites]

when my brother lived in Over the Rhine, he left his car unlocked every night, and took all valuables out of it. It was a fastidious habit, but it worked. At first, his car was rifled nightly. Once, they left the door open all night and the dome light killed the battery. AFter they got used to his car, they left it alone. He still kept it clean, empty and unlocked.

Eventually, of course, he moved.
posted by toodleydoodley at 8:11 AM on March 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

One problem I have found with leaving the windows open on a car is that neighborhood cats may decide the interior is a great place to take a piss.

Another problem (in Austin especially) is those sudden rainstorms that come out of nowhere.
posted by adamrice at 8:26 AM on March 18, 2011

When I lived in downtown Atlanta, I made a point of leaving the glove box and coin tray empty and open. I usually left the doors unlocked, too. Show them there's nothing worth taking.
posted by workerant at 8:30 AM on March 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

I've had my windows smashed in an unlocked car. Seems thieves don't always bother to check.
posted by three blind mice at 8:36 AM on March 18, 2011

This kind of sign worked like a charm for my friend!
posted by analog at 8:42 AM on March 18, 2011

God, I hate SXSW. This happens in my neighborhood every year.
posted by restless_nomad at 8:45 AM on March 18, 2011

(Point being, this may shortly become much less of a pressing issue.)
posted by restless_nomad at 8:46 AM on March 18, 2011

I keep my car completely empty so it's clear that there is nothing of value.
posted by insectosaurus at 8:47 AM on March 18, 2011

Don't leave a purse sitting there. That's begging for someone to smash the window.

I, too, didn't lock my car doors when I had a car. I also would not leave anything of value in the car or make it appear like I might have had anything of value.
posted by Brian Puccio at 8:49 AM on March 18, 2011

This may be a little too chatfilter, but our parking garage at 13th and guadalupe has had a number of smash&grab breakins over the last few weeks. What is it about SXSW season that brings out the robbers?

@spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints care to give us locals a tip as to what neighborhood and park you've had all the trouble?
posted by bug138 at 9:01 AM on March 18, 2011

Response by poster: I live off 969 just east of 183. So not that close to downtown. I just called my insurance company and added $0 deductible glass to my policy for $36/year. I never knew that was even an option.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 9:03 AM on March 18, 2011

i drove a convertible for 20 years and almost never put the top up - and nothing but a pack of gum was stolen. nothing valuable was in the car.

except, of course, the one time i put the top up and locked the car. never again.
posted by crankyrogalsky at 9:12 AM on March 18, 2011

My dad had a convertible. In 2 1/2 years, it was broken into 7 times, both at home and away, in nice neighborhoods and in crappy ones. At first, he told us to always leave the doors unlocked--and of course nothing in it--because it was really expensive to get the canvas top replaced when someone cut into it to break in.

Yeah. NONE of the times it was broken into, did they check to see if it was unlocked. They just broke the windows or cut the top *anyway*. Eventually he told us to leave it locked. May as well.

(The 7th time, it was totaled less than a mile from where it was stolen.)
posted by galadriel at 9:14 AM on March 18, 2011

Response by poster: Oh and the park was Pease Park on Monday.

I also broke my elbow and separated the opposite shoulder and cracked some ribs on Monday, so pity party for me.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 9:33 AM on March 18, 2011

That sucks. Seems like petty crime is going up in town. Cars and sheds seem especially popular for break-ins right now. I would leave the doors unlocked, but not leave the windows down, because that's a great way to come to a car full of mosquitoes (and sometimes a roach gets in there. nothing like driving then suddenly a roach dashes out somewhere in the car, egghhh).
posted by elpea at 9:44 AM on March 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

On Monday our car was broken into again, this time at a park. The window was smashed and my wife's purse was taken.

This is your problem. You need to never, ever leave anything of value or even of apparent value visible through the windows of your car. Just lock her purse in the trunk next time (and every. single. time.)

I learned my lesson about this when someone punched through my window on Christmas Eve and stole a bunch of Christmas presents out of the back. Make it clear that it's not worth their effort.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 10:01 AM on March 18, 2011

Agreeing with everyone else, keep everything out of site. Don't even leave an article of clothing visible (since you could be hiding something of value under it).

As someone else said, always keep your cigarette lighter (or cover) in its place and if you use a GPS with a suction cup, wipe off the window so the circle that it leaves on the window isn't visible.

If you have a hatchback, make sure you have a cover and keep a dark blanket/sheet in the back covering up what ever you might be storing in there since at night it will look empty.

I wouldn't leave my door unlocked since, in my neighborhood, I wouldn't be surprised to find someone sleeping in there.
posted by toddst at 10:27 AM on March 18, 2011

+1 for leaving nothing in the car and leaving it unlocked. My old manager had an ancient Toyota that was constantly getting broken into by transients looking for change, etc. So he left it unlocked with a note where the stereo used to be saying "Sorry, you're too late" and another note on the window asking them to kindly close the door behind them so the battery won't run down.

The risk you take with this is finding someone sleeping in your car.
posted by jeffamaphone at 11:33 AM on March 18, 2011

Yes, leave it unlocked. You could also (assuming you're in earshot) put a battery-powered motion detector in it. It wouldn't keep them from breaking your windows, but it might scare the hell out of them once they did it.

In a way, you're lucky. In this city, cops won't even show up for this sort of thing (even if stuff is missing and fingerprints are all over the place). Ask me how I know that...
posted by coolguymichael at 2:13 PM on March 18, 2011

Response by poster: In this city, cops won't even show up for this sort of thing (even if stuff is missing and fingerprints are all over the place.

The last time this happened, they didn't send anyone out. I think because they hit so many cars at once last night the cops are taking it pretty seriously now. The fingerprint guy has steadily been working his way down the street all day.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 2:34 PM on March 18, 2011

I have never had a problem, including when leaving electronics visible (though I never leave purses visible). My best guess is that it's because my car looks like it would obviously obviously have a big loud alarm factory-standard (it looks more expensive than it is).
I'm in a good neighborhood, which I assume is most of it, but I regularly street-park in not-so-good areas where friends have been broken into.

Perhaps walk around the neighborhood and see if you can find any street-parked cars that were not broken into - see if you can see any common threads as to which get hit and which (if any) don't.

It won't help you in the short term, but which cars are the least crime-magnetic might be useful knowledge to have next time you're shopping for a car.
posted by -harlequin- at 3:35 PM on March 18, 2011

A friend used to leave the following note on his dash:

"We lost a small python in here. Let us know if you find her and if she's laid her eggs yet!"

Then again he owned a snake removal/rescue company, kept a bag and a snake hook in every vehicle and lost snakes in his car and house all the time (I never rode w/him or visited his home). No one ever broke into one of his cars and he went into some really tough neighborhoods.

(The guy once removed a Coach Whip from our backyard - that snake bit him 10+ times and he never even blinked)
posted by jaimystery at 4:59 PM on March 18, 2011

Damn, they finally caught the tire slasher and now this...sorry to hear it spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints.

Maybe a nice big realistic rubber snake peering out the window.
posted by a humble nudibranch at 12:25 AM on March 19, 2011

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