Protecting Your Car ? And Yourself ? From Crime

By Tim Torres

April 4, 2008 5 min read

MEAN STREETS

Protecting your car ? and yourself ? from crime

By Tim Torres

Copley News Service

There is an easy way to keep yourself from becoming a victim of a car burglary: Don't leave anything in your vehicle a thief can see.

Most crimes are committed because of opportunity, according to the National Crime Prevention Council. If a would-be thief looks into your car and sees nothing, he or she will usually move on. It all comes down to a half-minute of effort: 30 seconds for you to remove any valuables from sight, or 30 seconds for a thief to smash the window and grab what's yours. You make the choice.

CAR BURGLARY

Here are some tips to prevent car burglary from crime prevention expert Stephanie L. Mann:

- Lock up. By simply locking up all doors, trunks, hatches and camper shells, you're way ahead of the game.

- Install a car alarm or steering-wheel lock.

- Park safely. If possible, park in well-lit areas where it is difficult for someone to tamper with your car without being noticed.

You should record identifying information about your car, in case it gets burglarized. List the make, model and serial numbers of all stereos, radios, cellular phones or similar items.

CARJACKING

Here are some tips from Mann to prevent carjacking:

- Be alert. Have your keys out and ready to open the door. Scan the area around your car before approaching it. Do not daydream.

- Lock up. Whenever you are in your car, keep your car doors locked and windows rolled up. This will help prevent an attacker from reaching into your car, opening the door and grabbing you.

- Check inside and around your car. Before you get into your car, always glance into the back seat and down at the floors to see if someone is hiding there. Also, glance underneath your car; carjackers have been known to hide there, Mann says. Some newer cars are equipped with a remote sensor that unlocks doors and turns on lights in the car while you are still 10 feet away from it. This device will help you spot a criminal in or near your car.

- Don't fall for a "bump-and-run." Some carjackers use the tactic of hitting a car from behind at a relatively slow speed. When the driver of the front car gets out to check the damage, the robbers steal the car.

The biggest mistake people make in carjacking? "Not being alert enough to see the carjacker waiting nearby," says Chris McGoey, author and professional security consultant.

If you are a victim of a carjacking, give up your car, he says. If confronted by a robber, do not resist or argue with the person, especially if the person is armed. Give up your car and get away, he says.

You should always carry your drivers license, copies of your registration, license plate number, vehicle identification (VIN) and insurance card with you, he says. If your vehicle is stolen, police will need this information promptly.

Don't leave personal identification documents or credit cards in your vehicle, McGoey says.

INSURANCE FRAUD

Insurance fraud is big business, costing Americans an estimated $20 billion to $30 billion annually, according to National Insurance Crime Prevention Bureau statistics.

According to Allstate insurance, auto accidents sometimes are no accident at all, but a staged production by criminals where you become an unwitting but innocent accomplice.

- Swoop and squat. In this scheme, two vehicles work as a team to set up an accident. One vehicle pulls in front of an innocent driver and the other alongside, blocking the victim in. The lead car stops short, causing the victim to rear-end him. The car that pulled up alongside serves as a block and prevents the victim from avoiding a collision.

- Drive down. This scheme calls for an innocent driver trying to merge into traffic. The suspect driver yields, waving on the other driver. As this innocent driver merges, the suspect driver intentionally collides with the victim and denies giving him the right of way.

Allstate advises that you always drive defensively to help ensure your safety and lessen the likelihood of having an auto accident.

If you are involved in an accident, always call the police, regardless of who is at fault or the amount of property damage.

? Copley News Service

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