Auto Theft

One vehicle is stolen every 20 seconds in the United States. Stolen cars, vans, trucks, and motorcycles cost victims time and money - and increase everyone's insurance premiums. They're also often used to commit other crimes. Don't become a victim of this serious crime.

Basic Prevention Policy

  • Never leave your keys in the car or ignition.
  • Always lock your car, even if it's in front of your home.
  • Copy your tag number and vehicle identification number (VIN) on a card and keep them with your driver's license. Keep the registration with you, not in the car.
  • Keep the keys to your home and car separate.
  • Keep your car in good running condition. Make sure there's enough gas to get there and back.
  • Avoid parking in isolated areas with little foot or auto traffic. Be especially alert in unstaffed lots and enclosed parking garages.
  • If you think someone is following you, drive to the nearest police or fire station, open service station, or other open business to get help.
  • Don't pick up hitchhikers. Don't hitchhike yourself.
  • If you often drive at night, or alone, consider a CB radio or cellular phone to make it easier to summon help in a emergency.

Source: National Crime Prevention Council

Get a Jump on Carjackers

During the 90s a new and sometimes deadly crime has evolved throughout the country. It involves the theft of your vehicle by use of force or threat of serious bodily injury. Car-jacking can happen anywhere. It has occurred at intersections, ATM machines, shopping malls and inside residential driveways and garages. Any time that your are in your vehicle, you can become a victim. The criminal that wants your car may use it in the commission of another crime, sell it for major component parts, be responding to a "gang" membership requirement or simply want a car to drive rather than walk. Regardless of the motivation, it is a potentially deadly situation.

As with all crimes, there are some commonsense measures that you can employ to avoid being car-jacked.

  • Though carjackings can occur anytime, a sizable share appears to take place during the late night hours.
  • Carjacking isn't just a problem in large cities - it happens in suburbs, small towns, and rural areas.
  • Carjackers look for opportunities. They don't choose victims by sex, race, or age.

Why There Is a Carjacking Problem

No one knows for certain, but some explanations include:

  • It's a crime of opportunity - a thief searching for the most vulnerable prey.
  • Sometimes it's the first step in another crime.
  • For some young people, carjacking may be a rite of passage, a status symbol, or just a thrill.
  • Cars, especially luxury ones, provide quick cash for drug users and other criminals.
  • Sophisticated alarms and improved locking devices make it harder for thieves to steal unoccupied cars.
  • It's easy to buy, steal, or barter for guns in this country. And a pointed gun makes a powerful threat.
  • More teens and adults commit crimes of violence than ever before.
  • Intense media interest may have created "copycat" carjackers.

Golden Opportunities - What Carjackers Look For

  • Intersections are controlled by stop lights or signs.
  • Garages and parking lots for mass transit, shopping malls, and grocery stores.
  • Self-serve gas stations and car washes.
  • ATMs (automated teller machines).
  • Residential driveways and streets as people get into and out of cars.
  • Highway exit and entry ramps, or anyplace else that drivers slow down or stop.
  • Eating, sleeping, reading, or applying make-up in a parked car is an open invitation to carjackers.

The "Bump & Rob"

Carjackers have been known to stage minor accidents so that they can approach your car. It works like this. A car, usually with a driver and at least one passenger, rear-ends or "bumps" you in traffic. You quickly get out to check the damage and exchange information. Either the driver or one of the passengers jumps in your car and drives off.

  • If you're bumped by another car, look around before you get out.
  • Make sure there are other cars around, check out the car that's rear-ended you and who's in it.
  • If the situation makes you uneasy, memorize or jot down the car's tag number and description; signal the other car to follow you.
  • Drive to the nearest police station or to a busy, well-lighted area.
  • If you do get out of the car, take your keys (and purse or wallet if you have one) with you and stay alert.

Reduce Your Risk Getting In

  • Walk with purpose and stay alert.
  • Approach your car with the key in hand. As you approach your vehicle, check around and inside it before entering. If you observe a suspicious person or activity then do not approach your vehicle.
  • Be wary of people asking for directions or handing out fliers. Trust your instincts - if something makes you feel uneasy, get into the car quickly, lock the doors, and drive away.

On the Road

  • Keep your doors locked and windows rolled up (at least part-way, if it's hot and you don't have air conditioning), no matter how short the distance or how safe the neighborhood.
  • Avoid driving through high crime or unfamiliar areas, particularly late at night or early in the morning.
  • When you're coming to a stop, leave enough room to maneuver around other cars, especially if you sense trouble and need to get away.
  • Drive in the center lane to make it harder for would-be carjackers to approach the car.
  • Check your rearview mirror to make sure you are not being followed.
  • Avoid driving alone. Go with someone whenever possible, especially at night.
  • Don't stop to assist a stranger whose car is broken down. Help instead by driving to the nearest phone and calling the police to help.

Getting Out

  • Park in well-lighted areas, near sidewalks or walkways.
  • Avoid parking near dumpsters, woods, large vans or trucks, or anything else that limits your visibility.
  • Never leave valuables in plain view, even if the car is locked. Put them in the trunk or out of sight.
  • Try to park in a garage with an attendant. Leave only the ignition key, with no identification.
  • Prior to exiting your vehicle, take the time to look around, particularly at areas that could conceal a criminal.

If It Happens to You

If you are confronted by a carjacker, especially if the thief has a weapon, give up your car immediately and move away. Your life is more valuable than your car or possessions!

  • Get away from the area as quickly as possible.
  • Try to remember what the carjacker looked like - sex, race, age, hair and eye color, special features, and clothes.
  • Report the crime immediately to the police.