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Automobile Security

by Ron Kurtus (updated 23 November 2022)

Theft of automobiles and/or property in the cars is a common crime that plagues most societies. Security against such an attack primarily consists of discouraging theft and rapid response to an attack.

Questions you may have include:

This lesson will answer those questions.

Reasons for theft

Knowing the motivations of the criminally-minded person who may want to steal your car or its contents is important in preparing your defenses for such an attack.

The primary reason a person would steal a car or its contents is for personal gain. In many cases, cars are stolen by professional thieves who then sell the vehicles to "chop shops" that dismantle the car and sell it for parts. Others may steal a car to try to sell it. Finally, there are those who steal a car for kicks and a joy ride.

Vehicles are often broken into for things inside, such as a cell phone, briefcase or anything else in view. High priced car radios are a hot item. These things may be sold, but often they are for person use by the thief.

Sometimes people have put signs in their cars, saying "no radio" to try to discourage a break-in.

Discouraging theft

In order for a criminal to steal your car or its contents, he must first break into the vehicle. Ways to discourage that break-in--and thus the theft--are to lock the doors, have a visible alarm system, and/or have a visible extra locking system. Also, parking in a secure or well-lit area can help to prevent a break-in.

Encouraging theft

Ways to encourage theft are to leave your keys in the ignition, leave the doors unlocked, park in a secluded area in the bad part of town, and leaving something of value in plain view inside the automobile.

I remember when a friend parked his car on a side street near downtown, in not a good neighborhood. He locked the doors but left a basketball in the back seat. When he returned to his car, someone had thrown a brick through his window and took the basketball. That was a lesson to me never to leave anything in plain view in a car. "Out of sight...out of mind."

The recent fad of the SUV makes it difficult to hide anything, since such a vehicle doesn't have a trunk. Also, SUV owners often leave their cell phones in their vehicles.

Locking the doors

Locking the doors on a car is not fail-safe, since many professional car thieves can use a "slim Jim" or other device to open the car. But it does discourage the casual thief.

Some years ago, I was flying out of the Los Angeles airport (LAX) and was going to leave my car in the long-term parking lot for a week. I was very careful to lock the door. In fact, I even walked back to the car and double-checked that they were locked. When I got back from my trip, the car was still there safe and sound. But I noticed something when I started to unlock the car door ---- I had left all the windows open in the car! Talk about absent-minded.

Visible alarm system

An alarm system with a blinking red light will warn thieves not to bother. That is not to say the car still couldn't be broken into, but it would discourage most criminals.

Visible extra locking system

Something like "The Club" that attaches to the stealing wheel of your car can discourage thieves from trying to steal the car. Just seeing such a device will cause them to move on.

Of course, if you leave things in the car, they may not steal the car, but they still could break in to steal other things.

Invisible locking system

An invisible locking system, such as one that will turn off the fuel supply, will not prevent your car from being stolen, but if does prevent it from being stolen for very long. The thief may get only a few blocks away until the engine dies. The car is then usually left in the street.

Rapid response

An alarm system is supposed to alert the police to make a rapid response to stop a theft or even to catch the crook.

Car alarm

Having an alarm is supposed to attract people to the scene of the crime. Unfortunately, so many car alarms go off, that people stop paying attention. I even wonder if a policeman would stop a car driving down the street with the alarm going off.

Silent alarm

A better device is the silent alarm that signals the police that a car is being stolen. One brand is "Lo-Jack" that gives off a radio signal that allows the police to track and find the automobile and perhaps the thief.


Usually cars are stolen or broken into for financial gain of the thief. Locks and other devices can discourage theft. Alarm systems are supposed to alert the police to respond, but in many cases they don't work well. Discouraging theft is the best route to take.

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