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Shell Answer Book

 

Shell Answer Series #9 - 1992 By John Kesler, Shell Corporate Security

 

Over one and a half million cars were stolen in the United States last year. Millions more were vandalized or stripped. Total cost to Americans: a staggerring $8 billion. In fact, if auto theft were a legitimate business, it would rank about 50th among the FORTUNE 500 companies. Read how you can fight back before you become one of the statistics.


Q. My car is over 10 years old. Why would anybody steal it? Q. Where and when do vehicle thefts most often occur?
Q. What's the story on antitheft devices? Q. Are there any other things I can do to make my car harder to steal?
Q. Do I get a break on my car insurance if I install an antitheft device? Q. What if my car is stolen? Any tips on how to help get it back?
Q. So, what kind of car do thieves look for most? Q. If someone really wants to steal my car, there's nothing I can do. Right?
Q. How long does it take an experienced car thief to break into a car?

 

Q.  My car is over 10 years old. Why would anybody steal it?
A. Today, many cars are taken for the parts. And no car is too old, too rusty or too ugly to be stolen. While you may consider your car to be ordinary, a thief may have his eye on it simply because a car theft ring has a ready market for its parts. Typically, an automobile in parts is worth three times its value as a whole. 

Once stolen, many cars are taken to "chop shops," where they are quickly dismantled. The parts are then sold. It's just part of the chain in the $8-billion-a-year business of vehicle theft. 

 
Q.  What's the story on antitheft devices?
A. Antitheft devices aren't foolproof. However, they can stop the amateur and slow the professional. There are a number of antitheft devices to choose from. Auto alarm systems activate a horn or siren when triggered by motion, sound or contact.  

There are two types of systems: active and passive. Active systems require you to set the alarm yourself. Passive systems switch on automatically after you remove the key or lock the doors. 

Here are some other antitheft devices: 

  • Vehicle Identification Number: Number etched on car window and major parts to make it easier for stolen car to be traced. 
  • Vehicle Tracking: Transmitter hidden in car enables police to track car (not yet available in all areas). 
  • Brake and Steering Wheel Lock: Locks steering wheel to the brake pedal to immobilize the controls. 
  • Window Sticker: Warns thieves that car is protected by a security system. 
  • Steering Wheel Lock: Steel rod locks to steering wheel and prevents wheels from turning. 
  • Ignition and Steering Column Lock: Lockable steel cover encases steering column, preventing access to ignition. 
  • Tapered Door Locks: Hinder quick break-in through car window. 


    The most effective deterrent? Removing your keys. According to AAA, over 20% of stolen cars had the keys left in the ignition. 
    But before you buy any antitheft device, check with your local law enforcement officials. They are aware of the most common auto theft techniques being used in your area. 

 
Q.  Do I get a break on my car insurance if I install an antitheft device?
A. It depends on the insurance provider. But often the answer is yes. A security device can cost anywhere from $25 to $1,000, but could earn a 5% to 25% discount on your comprehensive insurance coverage. 

Generally, active devices earn a 5% discount, while passive devices earn around 15% discounts. Some of the more sophisticated systems earn even larger discounts. Call your insurance agent for more information. 

Over one and a half million cars were stolen in the United States last year. Millions more were vandalized or stripped. Total cost to Americans: a staggering $8 billion.  

In fact, if auto theft were a legitimate business, it would rank about 50th among the FORTUNE 500 companies. Read how you can fight back before you become one of the statistics. 

 
Q.  So, what kind of car do thieves look for most?
A. Thieves look for cars that are easy to steal. They also look for cars regardless of age that can be resold quickly or stripped for resale parts. The ten most stolen vehicles in America are at least four years old. Just because you drive a new sports car doesn't mean you're an automatic target. Some of these cars have high-tech alarm systems and high-profile looks that actually make them harder to steal and even more difficult to resell. No matter what kind of car you drive, by making it harder to steal, you can reduce the chances of theft. 
 
Q.  How long does it take an experienced car thief to break into a car?
A. A matter of seconds. According to an auto theft expert, it can take as little as 7 seconds, and one screwdriver, to break in, and less than a minute to start and drive away a previously locked vehicle. The National Auto Theft Bureau reports that one vehicle in America is stolen every 19 seconds. And there's a good chance your vehicle could be next. 
 
Q.  Where and when do vehicle thefts most often occur?
A. Although auto theft can happen anywhere, recent data reveals that this is primarily a large-city problem. The crimes most often take place at night and are largely committed by young males. According to Citizens for Auto-theft Responsibility (C.A.R.), the top spots for auto theft include malls, apartments, stores, churches and office buildings. No matter where you are, you're always at risk. 
 
Q.  Are there any other things I can do to make my car harder to steal?
A. Here are a few basic precautions:  
  1. Never leave your car unlocked, windows rolled down or keys in the ignition. 
  2. Keep contents and valuables (car phones, purses, packages, etc.) out of sight. Lock them in the trunk or store them under the seat. If you can't replace it -- don't leave it in your vehicle. 
  3. When going out of town, remove the coil wire. 
  4. Don't leave spare keys in the car or in "hiding spots." An experienced thief knows all the hiding places. 
  5. Park in well-lit areas. Turning front wheels sharply to the right or left makes it harder for a thief to tow you. In the driveway, park facing the street. Anyone tampering with the car can be seen more easily. 
  6. Put emergency brake on and leave the transmission in park. Standard transmissions should be left in gear. 
  7. No matter how quick the errand, never leave your car running unattended. Not even in your driveway. 
  8. If you have a garage, use it and lock it. 
 
Q.  What if my car is stolen? Any tips on how to help get it back?
A. Car thieves will usually alter vehicle identification numbers on stolen cars. So mark your car in several hard-to-spot places. For instance, etch the vehicle ID number on window glass or trim, and engrave expensive accessories. Or drop a business card or piece of paper with your driver's license number and state where issued down inside the door. Never keep your registration, title or license in your car, unless the law requires you to do so. It only makes it easier for a thief to sell the car. If your car is stolen, contact the police and alert them to the steps you've taken to identify your car. 
 
Q.  If someone really wants to steal my car, there's nothing I can do. Right?
A. Wrong. Although you can't make your car impossible to steal, you can make it difficult. The important thing is not to wait to become a victim of car theft. Following the tips in this book will help. Remember, do anything you can to make it harder to steal your car and you'll greatly improve your chances of holding on to your vehicle and its contents.

 

About the Author . . . Author John Kesler has served as an investigator with Corporate Security for Shell Oil since 1982. Prior to that, he was with the Federal Bureau of Investigation for 31 years. John continues to bring his extensive law enforcement experience to all areas of corporate security for Shell. 


Shell Answer Series book #9 was published by Shell in 1992 and is no longer in print. 


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