The scenario is as common as it is unsettling: you return to your car to find a shattered window, and your valuables gone - or, even worse, an empty driveway where your car should be. While car break-ins tend to be opportunistic crimes targeting valuables like electronics and luggage, car theft in Canada is often linked to organized crime, where thieves target specific makes and models, using sophisticated technology to overcome anti-theft systems. Vehicles are then either chopped up for parts, or loaded into shipping containers to be resold in other parts of the world.
While there’s no 100% effective solution to safeguard your vehicle, you can greatly reduce the odds of being victimized by taking a few simple precautions.
The best way to keep your vehicle and your valuables out of the hands of would-be thieves is to use a little common sense. Firstly, always lock your doors, and never leave your car unattended while it’s running. Secondly, avoid leaving any valuables inside your car whenever possible. Most importantly, never leave your driver’s license, passport, vehicle registration, insurance, or other important documents in the car. Instead, keep what you need in your purse or wallet, and make sure to take it with you when you lock up.
If you have to leave a purse, backpack, or other valuables in the car, put them out of sight in the trunk, console or glove box. Also, park your car indoors if you can (even if it means de-cluttering the garage to make room). If you park in a driveway outside your home, consider investing in a security camera (and make sure it works well in the dark – your footage won’t be much good if the images are too blurry to make out). If you park two vehicles in the driveway, park the less valuable one in front, making it harder for thieves to drive away in the other vehicle. If you park on the street, do your best to leave your vehicle in a well-lit, well-trafficked area – even better if it’s in sight of a camera from a nearby home or business.
If you live in a high-crime area or own a make and model that is popular among thieves, you should seriously consider investing in some secondary measures to guard against theft. In most cases, a small investment upfront can save you a lot of hassle later on. Among the most simple and effective of these are steering wheel and gearshift locking devices, which make your car undrivable when they are locked in place.
Cars are increasingly high-tech, but unfortunately, this doesn’t make them any less easy to steal. Indeed, your car’s remote key fob and its push-button starter could make stealing it that much easier for a thief with the right know-how and equipment. Thieves can use various means to overcome your car’s security systems, among them “cloning” your key fob using a device that scans and retransmits the signal to unlock your car. Once inside the vehicle, thieves can then connect a device to the vehicle’s diagnostic port (the same port the mechanic uses to diagnose problems and update software) which enables them to mimic your key signal and drive it away. Fortunately, it’s relatively easy to foil these sorts of thefts by storing your key fob in a “Faraday bag” which shields it from radio signals used by thieves and putting a lock on your diagnostic port. Both of these countermeasures are readily available for sale online and could make all the difference.
Other best practices
With car thefts are on the rise in some parts of the country, you could become a victim of car theft even if you follow best practices. If your car is stolen, it will be important to have a readily available record of the make, model, year, and colour of your vehicle, as well as the license plate, VIN, and any scratches, dents, or other identifying marks. Also, investing in an aftermarket GPS tracking system can be a big help in locating your stolen vehicle as a last resort.
Jeremy Freed is a freelance writer and editor based in Toronto. His writing about fashion, travel, food and design appears in Sharp, Harry and re:Porter magazines, among many others.
Jeremy Freed is a paid spokesperson of Sonnet Insurance.