Baby you can steal my car
November 16, 2011 1:06 PM   Subscribe

Looking for some advice on how to deal with repeated thefts and vandalism.

I recently moved up to the PacNW, and in the space of two months I have had one vehicle outright stolen, found stripped, then was sold for salvage (6K loss) and just last night another vehicle broken into and items stolen from it (window smashed). My total loss in two months exceeds 6 thousand dollars, and I'm sitting here thinking to myself "this is ridiculous". I'm kinda stunned actually.

Right this minute I'm thinking "Pull my kids out of school friday, send the wife and kids to live with family back home this weekend, tell my landlord I'm breaking the lease to find some other temporary place to live and begin looking for a job back home." I feel that's a bit. excessive. But I FEEL it so strongly right now.

I guess I'm asking for advice on how to deal with this, and what a rational response might look like.
posted by roboton666 to Human Relations (19 answers total)
This is just your cars, right, not your home? You could rent a space in a lot/garage with 24/7 surveillance/guard. I understand that this makes you feel vulnerable, but thieves go for easy targets. Be even a slightly harder target and you'll improve your chances severalfold.
posted by supercres at 1:10 PM on November 16, 2011

And of course, never ever leave anything of value visible in your car. Always always glovebox and trunk. You'd think a few bucks worth of change wouldn't be worth a vandalism charge for some crackhead, right? So I thought. I put my stereo faceplate and GPS in the glovebox but not my change, and I got a broken window for it. Expensive lesson learned.

I realize that advice on not getting robbed again perhaps isn't what you're asking for when you ask for advice on "how to deal" with it, but for me, knowing I'm a little better protected helped my feelings of vulnerability after a home break-in and aforementioned smashed window.
posted by supercres at 1:16 PM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

Change is needed. I would move. Your landlord will understand (and would probably do the same).
posted by Murray M at 1:16 PM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

Where are you parking these vehicles?
posted by elsietheeel at 1:17 PM on November 16, 2011

I feel your pain. I moved from a little college town in Tennessee to a less than stellar neighborhood in St. Louis last year. My husband has had his truck locks punched twice and the window in his truck broken out once. He's had his Jeep rifled through, and I had a full gas can stolen out of my hatchback. We were both very frustrated by this and really stressed about it.

Eventually, we both realized it is not a personal attack on you. The thieves aren't fucking with your stuff because they hate you, it's because they can. We've responded by never, ever leaving a vehicle unlocked. Not even for a minute. And never, ever leaving anything in the car. I'm not kidding, I don't even leave a jacket in the car overnight because that could entice someone to steal it.

Jack up your insurance and look into off-street parking. Look into an aftermarket alarm system for your car, that's the only thing that's kept my husband's truck from being stolen.

And remember, it sucks but it's not personal. Eventually this attention to security becomes habit and you lock your car door when you get out to pump gas.
posted by teleri025 at 1:21 PM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

Consider getting an ignition kill switch installed in the car --- cost probably somewhere in the $250-300 range. They shut it down if anyone tries to pop the ignition with a screwdriver or even just tries to start the car with an unauthorized key. Folks just don't seem to pay any attention to car alarms, other than to cuss out the annoying noise; an ignition kill switch might not stop someone from breaking in, but it WILL stop them from driving it away, and I for one would rather have a car with a broken window than a completely stolen car.

Also: keep the car LOCKED, and keep everything out of sight. Stash both your GPS AND it's holder; remember that even the suction-cup mark on the inside of a windshield tells a thief that there's probably a GPS in the car. Slowing crooks down even a little is a good thing: if it takes 30 seconds to break in your car vs. ten seconds for the car next to it, then it'll be that next car they'll hit.
posted by easily confused at 1:25 PM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

One tactic as well is to empty the glove box completely and leave it open when you lock the car at night to show any thieves that there's literally nothing hiding away in there, and discourage breaking in.
posted by smitt at 1:27 PM on November 16, 2011 [6 favorites]

My first year in Northern California was much like this - I had my bike stolen two weeks after moving here, and my car was broken into on my first New Year's here (they literally stole 5 CDs and the suction cup thingy that holds my GPS to the window). I definitely wanted to move back home. But, I started to realize that I just needed to be more conscious of security. When my apartment lease was up, I moved to a place that had a garage. And, I leave absolutely nothing in my car...nothing...not even trash. I know it sucks, but it does get better. Don't give up.
posted by AlliKat75 at 1:27 PM on November 16, 2011 [2 favorites]

I can't speak to the emotional response, but I park in an okay-ish neighborhood (not great), and here is what I do to minimize the chances of a break-in:

I drive an ordinary car - it's not junk, but it's never the nicest car on the block, either. High value cars are asking for trouble in certain areas.

I keep my car EMPTY - there is nothing, not even trash, in it to steal. Thieves don't know if that trash is hiding something valuable.
posted by insectosaurus at 1:27 PM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

I am from midtown in Detroit, so I am very accustom to vehicle theft. Here are some tips:

1) Never leave anything in your can that would be visible from the outside. People will break into your car just to steal the duffel bag in the back seat that may contain a laptop (they have no way of knowing that it is just your dirty gym shorts until it is too late).

2) Get a club lock for your steering wheel and invest in LoJack. Put the LoJack sticker they give you in a visible location on your car (like your windshield). Most thieves will not mess with a car that even remotely looks like it will be anything other then an easy target.

3) Call up the local police station and look online for lists of the most frequently stolen vehicle types in your area, and do not buy one of those vehicles.

The third point is so very important. Scrappers usually target cars that have a high individual part resale value. In other words, say your car model has really expensive airbags that need to be replaced every time they are deployed. You had better believe that many people will be looking on Craigslist to buy a replacement and not give a second thought to whether or not said part was acquired by "questionable means". All they care is that it is cheaper then the dealer price. This is a big business, don't become a victim of it.


Some vehicle models are targeted way more then others, learn and avoid those models like the plague.
posted by Shouraku at 1:33 PM on November 16, 2011 [3 favorites]

Nthing not leaving ANYTHING of value anywhere but in your trunk. After multiple break-ins, I now go so far as to leave the glove compartment, change tray, armrest console, etc. wide open and completely empty when I park overnight. I don't leave even an umbrella or a phone charger or a map or a CD or a magazine or an ice scraper or even an empty water bottle visible in the car.

Because so many people have them, thieves are now looking for iPods in the various car compartments -- that's why I leave every possible thing open, to encourage them to move along and save me from replacing my windows again, even if I have nothing of value in there anyway.

If you park on your own property, consider a bright motion-sensitive light for your driveway. If you park on the street, think about parking in the heaviest-trafficked area within a few blocks pf you, even if it's not as convenient.

I'm so sorry you've gone through this. I think the best way to cope is to take control over what you can, but recognize that you can't control everything.
posted by argonauta at 1:38 PM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

I feel that's a bit. excessive. But I FEEL it so strongly right now.

It's a totally legit feeling, and it's excessive. Unless where you lived previously was entirely and permanently crime-free, moving back there is not going to solve this.

But I'll go ahead and maybe make you feel worse: Our car was broken into a few months ago (we park on the street). Nothing except a filthy baseball cap was visible (they did not steal the baseball cap). They did steal the (broken) CD player, which had been hidden behind a little door, and my binos, which I had stupidly left hidden under the driver's seat instead of in the trunk. If it makes you feel better, consider that we've been parking this car on the street for eight years or so and this is the first time anything like this every happened to it.

It's a shitty thing to have happen, and to have it happen more than once is super shitty with a large side of crap. You can see about getting a garage, or renting a space in a place with a 24-hour attendant, but that's no guarantee either, and it won't keep anyone from breaking into your car when you, say, go grocery shopping and park the car in the store lot. But yeah - make it less attractive as a target (club on the steering wheel, nothing visible in it, etc.) and chalk it up to experience.
posted by rtha at 1:48 PM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

Never leave anything in your can that would be visible from the outside.

This goes as far as not leaving the little marks from a GPS/etc suction cup-attached holder on your windshield. People see that, and often assume there's a GPS/whatever in the glove compartment.
posted by inigo2 at 1:50 PM on November 16, 2011 [2 favorites]

A cheaper (but more of a pain in the ass) option than installing a kill-switch is just disconnecting one of the battery cables when you park at night. Also agree with using The Club or something like it.

The not-leaving-anything-out-and-opening-all-closed-compartments idea is a classic. Do this.
posted by resurrexit at 1:51 PM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

Yes, leave glove compartment, and the between the seat compartments wide open and empty. Make the car look empty - nothing on the seats, nothing on the dashboard, nothing sticking out from the door side pockets, sun visors down. Empty.

And use an engine disabler of some kind. I use this: CarDefender. It's a pretty unique device:

"CarDefender does not wait for an intruder. Five seconds after you turn your key off, CarDefender will automatically disable it, rendering it useless to a thief. CarDefender is NOT a starter interrupt. If your battery goes dead CarDefender keeps on working."

It controls the fuel pump - much more difficult to get at compared to various starter bypass devices. You can install it yourself, if you are a bit handy, or get the schematics from the site and have a car mechanic install it for you. It's amazing. A car thief might spend a whole day taking a car apart and not know why he can't steal it short of having it towed. It also has a little flashing LED light that can be installed that signals to would-be thieves to leave this one alone.
posted by VikingSword at 1:56 PM on November 16, 2011 [2 favorites]

The Pacific Northwest - particularly urban areas like Seattle and Portland - have a surprisingly high rate of property crime. Meth is presumed to be the driving factor behind most of this crime. It's junkies looking for a quick buck so they can buy more meth.

Identity theft is also high, for roughly the same reason. Meth users will steal your car, or break in and take stuff. Identity thieves are looking for mail and insurance documents.

What does this mean? It means you need to be dutiful about locking your car, and keeping it empty. Not only remove your valuables, but remove all the other "stuff" as well. To a meth-addled kid in the middle of the night, that pile of empty McDonalds wrappers could have something valuable underneath. A pile of discarded mail says "kaching" to an identity thief.

Understand that some neighborhoods are better than others. I lived in Seattle for 15 years, and had my car broken into about 10 times. 6 of those times were in the last year, when I lived in the Eastlake neighborhood.

These days I live about halfway between Seattle and the Canadian border. People here rarely even bother to lock their cars. It's common to see bikes - expensive ones - left unlocked, just leaning casually up against the grocery store wall while their owners are inside.

In other words, you don't have to move back home, but you might consider moving to a better area.

You fear crime. That's understandable. But these are property crimes committed by people looking for money. It's a completely different thing than personal crimes that affect your safety and the safety of your family.
posted by ErikaB at 1:56 PM on November 16, 2011 [4 favorites]

I had a nice, late model car and a beater truck. Nobody messed with the truck; the Buick got hit four times. I made a deal with a suburban work acquaintance that I could park the car at her house (twenty minutes from downtown) and just use the beater at my place downtown. Suburban friend got an unexpected bonus from this; the next door neighbors got burgled, but it looked like someone was home during the day at her house.

I eventually sold the nice car and kept the beater. The people I was dating thought it was more honest, anyway. Plus, it was pickup. You always have friends when you have a pickup.
posted by halfbuckaroo at 1:59 PM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

These vehicles are (were) on the street, right in front of our house in a residential area. I cleaned out the garage last night till 4AM, going to work more on it today do the car can go in easy without having to take an hour to get car in there, lol. Our daughter left her iPod in the car (first time, we are really conscientious after the first vehicle was stolen) the first vehicle was a totally kitted out 1995 jeep with about thirteen thousand dollars sunk into it, so that one was obvious. This felt a little more random and shitty. We have two cars left, one will go in the detached garage, the other will be parked in the small drive leading to the alley. I hope these measures help, but I'm feeling very strongly that I should head back to "home" once our lease is up.
posted by roboton666 at 2:03 PM on November 16, 2011

In my last apartment, my car got broken into five times, and almost stolen twice (once they seem to have been trying to hotwire it and broke something, and the second time they got it as far as the driveway, and it broke down. Hah.)

This happened most frequently when my car was the oldest and worst looking car in the building. I guess that made it look easier to break into.

Things that didn't help:
- leaving the windows open - they once smashed a lock out despite the fact the back window was still missing glass from the previous break-in the week before.
- putting a sign on the window saying there were no valuables inside. I guess dumb teenage thieves and vandals can't read.
- an internal steering lock (they damaged the steering column, but managed to remove it)
- an alarm. Alarms go off in our garage so often that everyone just tunes them out. Including me, it seems.
- changing the access code to the garage. I think the thieves were getting in other ways, or maybe just following cars in on Friday nights.

Things that did help:

- I got a big sticker from the Australian Police saying there were no valuables in the car, and stuck that in the window. I don't think the text helped, but it had the federal police logo on it, and I bet that made people think twice
- a big fuck-off steering lock that was really visible from outside the car (bright red).
- buying a nicer car (so that it was mid-range in terms of the quality of cars in the garage, and keeping it really clean). After that, they only stole the licence plates.
- leaving the doors unlocked. This was actually recommended to me by the police. They also recommended that I lie to my insurance company about it if asked. (YMMV).
- leaving the glovebox open so that people can see by looking in the windows that it is empty.

After I implemented the changes above, the frequency of the break-ins reduced, and after I made the final changes (the unlocked doors and the police sticker), they stopped entirely.
posted by lollusc at 2:11 PM on November 16, 2011 [3 favorites]

« Older aMember Alternatives   |   I want to accept my sex drive. Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.