One of the simplest things you can do to protect your vehicle is to make sure all windows are closed and doors are locked.
A reminder of that came last weekend, when multiple vehicles entered neighborhoods across Steubenville’s West End, other parts of town and in Mingo Junction.
Police reports from earlier this week show how many people were affected, many overnight between Saturday and Sunday. In almost all cases where money and other items were removed from vehicles, they were unlocked.
The suspected thieves apparently wandered the streets and tried the doorknobs. If they found the vehicle was locked, they moved on.
If it was unlocked, they would venture inside, looking for cash, computers, phones, wallets – anything of value in the vehicle. This even included important papers that had been stored in the glove box or other bins inside the vehicle.
Since the incidents involved little more than opening a door on a car or truck, there was little that would have caught the attention of owners or neighbors who lived nearby – there was no broken glass, no torn metal, no obvious noise that a person would associate with a break-in.
Which means many people were surprised Sunday morning when they came out to find someone had searched their vehicle.
Unfortunately, vandalism and theft involving vehicles – whether the interior is trashed or the vehicle is just taken – cannot be completely eliminated, but there are some general steps almost anyone can take to make sure that their vehicles are as safe as possible:
≤ Be sure to park in a well-lit area. Although many neighborhoods have streetlights, this is not always the case. If this is your area, you can always install motion-activated lights. Darkness is the friend of the criminal – it allows him to do his job unnoticed.
≤ Do not leave windows open and doors unlocked. Again, this makes it too easy to enter a vehicle undetected.
≤ Don’t leave your keys in the car — or near the car. No matter how confident you are that you’ve found the perfect hiding place, thieves know where spare keys are likely to be hidden on or around cars.
≤ Do not leave valuables in your vehicle. Leaving a phone, camera, computer, loose change, cash, or wallet out in the open where it can be seen through the window is never a good idea.
≤ Make sure your vehicle’s alarm system is on and working.
≤ Keep an eye out for suspicious activity in your neighborhood. Most people are aware of the traffic patterns of their particular neighborhoods, especially the approximate arrival and departure times of their neighbors. Activity at odd hours may be nothing – someone may have stayed late with a friend or had to work, which means they came home later than usual. But it could also be the trolls inspecting the streets.
If your car is targeted, the best case scenario would be for a window to be broken and something to be taken. A much worse case would be that the vehicle is stolen, and that becomes a much bigger problem. According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau, approximately 1 million vehicles were stolen in 2021. This number represents an increase of 16.5% from 2019 and 29% from 2017.
The most stolen was a full-size Chevrolet pickup truck. The second was the Ford full-size pickup. The Hondas were third and fourth – Civics and Accords, respectively – while the Toyota Camry was fifth. Another pickup – a full-size GMC – finished sixth, the Nissan Altima seventh, the Honda CR-V eighth, the Jeep Cherokee-Grand Cherokee ninth and the Toyota Corolla 10th.
There is a difference in the vehicles taken in our area. In Ohio, for example, the Ford full-size pickup truck was stolen the most, followed by the Chevy full-size pickup truck, Accord, Civic, Chevy Malibu, Jeep Cherokees, Camry, Chevy Impala, Ford Fusion. and the Corolla.
In West Virginia, the Chevy full-size pickup tops the list, followed by the Ford full-size pickup, the Ford small-size pickup, Cherokees, the Chevy small-size pickup, the -up full-size Dodge, from the Ford Escape, the Camry, the full-size Ram pickup, the Hyundai Elantra and the Ford Focus.
In Pennsylvania, the Accord tops the list, followed by the Altima, Civic, Ford full-size pickup truck, Camry, Corolla, Malibu, Cherokees, Elantra, CR-V and the Hyundai Sonata.
Our economy has helped turn stolen vehicles into a rather lucrative business.
“The value of used cars reaches historic highs” according to David Glawe, president and CEO of the office.
“We have seen an almost 35% increase in the value of used cars over the past two years due to supply issues and inflation. Stolen cars can be shipped overseas and resold or broken down into valuable used car parts in the United States,” he added.
Unfortunately, according to the NICB, if reported stolen within the first 24 hours, passenger vehicles have a 34% recovery rate in 2021.
Just another reminder – you can reduce the risk of your vehicle being vandalized or stolen if you remember to close your windows, lock the doors and take your keys.
(Gallabrese, a Steubenville resident, is editor of the Herald-Star and the Weirton Daily Times.)