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Prevention Tips

Vehicle Security

Although a professional car thief can defeat most security measures and quickly break into and steal a locked vehicle, most vehicle break-ins and thefts are carried out by amateurs who take advantage of the carelessness of drivers in leaving vehicles unlocked, valuables in sight, etc. The tips in this section will significantly enhance the security of your vehicles.

Buying a Used Vehicle

  • Be suspicious of a ridiculously low price or a fresh paint job on a late-model vehicle, especially a luxury car or SUV.
  • Be suspicious of low mileage for the age of the vehicle. The problem of odometer fraud is more common in newer vehicles that have accumulated high mileage in a short time. Indicators of actual mileage include wear on tires, floor mats, seats, and pedals. If you suspect odometer fraud you should consider can buying a vehicle history report from a commercial website by going online and searching for “vehicle history report.” If you suspect that the odometer has been rolled back or tampered with on a vehicle purchased from a used car dealer you should file a complaint in writing with the DMV. Go to the Forms section of its website at www.dmv.ca.gov and download a Record of Complaint Form with Instruction and Additional Information.
  • Make sure the seller is the owner named on the vehicle title. Don’t be afraid to ask to see some photo identification.
  • Verify past insurance and financing, and current registration and license plate sticker.
  • Make sure the VIN has not been tampered with and matches the number on the vehicle title, registration, and proof of insurance. Thieves have been known to sell stolen vehicles with cloned VINs, i.e., those of vehicles not stolen. Call the San Diego County Regional Auto Theft Task Force at (858) 627-4000 if you find any discrepancies.
  • Obtain both sets of the original keys.
  • Make sure registration fees paid to dealer are sent to DMV promptly.

Preventing Carjackings

The following tips will help prevent carjackings. But if you get involved with a carjacker, don’t resist or argue. Your life is much more valuable than your vehicle. Be especially alert when parking at fast food places, gas stations, ATMs, and shopping areas along suburban highways.

Preventing Break-ins and Theft

The following tips help prevent vehicle break-ins, which could lead to theft of the vehicle itself or of property items from the vehicle.

  • Park in open, well-lighted, and populated areas near your destination, preferably one in view of a security camera. Avoid parking near trucks, vans, dumpsters, and other objects that obstruct visibility and provide hiding places. Avoid parking near strangers loitering or sitting in vehicles.
  • Park in lots or garages where you don’t have to leave your keys.
  • Park in your garage, if you have one. Don’t leave your vehicle on the street, in an alley, or on your driveway. If you have to park on a street, avoid dark or isolated areas.
  • Turn off your engine, roll up all windows, lock all doors, and take your keys with you even if you are making a quick stop at a store or gas station, or even in your driveway. Close all windows and lock the trunk and hood.
  • Don’t leave spare keys in your vehicle. An experienced thief knows all the hiding places. Store spare keys in your wallet.
  • Don’t leave your vehicle in an unattended public lot for an extended period time.
  • Buy a vehicle with interior hood and truck lock releases. Install a secondary hood lock if your car does not have one.
  • Replace knob-type door lock buttons with tapered ones.
  • Install an alarm system that will sound when someone attempts to break in, move, tilt, or start your vehicle. Always activate the system when leaving the vehicle.
  • Check your vehicle if you hear the alarm sound. But don’t try to stop a person attempting to break in. Get a good description of the person and call 911.
  • When you lock your vehicle with a Remote Keyless Entry (RKE) fob make sure that all the doors are locked before leaving your vehicle, especially in public parking lots. There has been an increase in the use of jammers to prevent the RKE signal from activating the door locks.
Prevent Theft of Cars, SUVs, and Light Trucks
  • Turn your wheels sharply toward the curb when parking on a street.
  • Use anti-theft devices that can be attached to the steering wheel or column, or brake pedal. Use one every time you leave your vehicle unattended. Steering wheel locks are inexpensive and are recommended by some experts to be the most cost-effective theft deterrent on the market today.
  • Install fuel or power cut-off switches.
  • Buy a vehicle with a locking ignition or steering column.
  • Chain motorcycles and bicycles to stationary objects when unattended.
  • Consider having your VIN (Vehicle Identification Number) etched on all the windows.
Prevent the Theft of Motorcycles
  • When at home park and lock your bike in the garage, preferably behind a car. And make sure the garage is secure.
  • When out park in a well-lighted area in full view of people in the area and within the coverage of a security camera.
  • Try to avoid parking between larger vehicles as they provide cover for thieves.
  • Do not leave your helmet or riding gear with your bike.
  • Lock your ignition and remove the key. Also lock your bike’s forks or disc brakes with a large external lock.
  • Cover your bike when you leave it unattended. Use a cover with grommets so the cover can be locked in place. And set the alarm to activate when the cover is removed. Few thieves will risk a blind theft. They usually look for certain models.
  • Chain and lock your bike to a secure, immovable object when it’s unattended. Use a high tensile-strength chain and a matching security lock. Loop the chain through the rear wheel or frame and make sure it is tight around your bike. Do not let it rest on the ground. And use multiple locks. A thief might be prepared for one but not the other.
  • Lock bikes together when riding with others.
  • Install a good audible alarm and a hidden kill switch.
  • Mark and photograph all parts that might be sold separately. Use the bike’s frame number. Put the marks in visible and secret places.
  • Call 911 if you see a bike theft in progress. Signs of a possible theft include the following: (1) one or more people standing near a bike, (2) a bike being loaded into a van or truck, and (3) a bike being transported on its side.
Prevent the Theft of Property from a Vehicle
  • Never leave anything of value in plain sight. Remove all cellular phones, audio systems, computers, packages, sports equipment, cameras, purses, wallets, firearms, etc. from the inside of your vehicle.
  • Take anything you can’t afford to lose with you, e.g., a wallet, credit card, or laptop computer. Put other valuables in the trunk before you park, never after you park. Thieves may be watching.
  • In shopping, ask the store to hold all your purchases until you are finished there so you can carry everything to your vehicle in one trip. If you need to make more than one trip to load your trunk, move your vehicle to a different area of the parking lot after each trip.
  • Make sure that any valuables that were locked in the glove box or trunk were not taken or tampered with when you return to your vehicle. Thieves are able to get into some vehicles without leaving any visible signs of a break-in.
  • Take the removable face of your CD player with you even if you are going to be gone for a few minutes.
  • Lock truck-bed toolboxes.
  • Install locking devices on batteries, wheels, audio equipment, etc.
  • Make several slices through your license plate registration sticker after it has been placed on the plate. If the sticker is stolen you can get a replacement from your local Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) office.

Preventing Vandalism

  • Park in open, well-lighted, and populated areas near your destination. Avoid parking near trucks, vans, dumpsters, and other objects that obstruct visibility and provide hiding places. Avoid parking near strangers loitering or sitting in vehicles.
  • Park in your garage, if you have one. Don’t leave your vehicle on the street, in an alley, or on your driveway. If you have to park on a street, avoid dark or isolated areas.
  • Don’t leave your vehicle in an unattended public lot for an extended period time.
  • Buy a vehicle with interior hood and truck lock releases. Install a secondary hood lock if your car does not have one. Also install a locking gas tank cap.

Recovering a Stolen Vehicle or Property Taken from a Vehicle

  • Call the police immediately and provide a complete description of the vehicle and any property taken from it, including a stolen license plate. (You can get a replacement plate from your local DMV office.) Call 911 if the theft is in progress. Otherwise call the non-emergency number of the law enforcement agency that has jurisdiction of the area in which the crime was committed. In the City of San Diego the SDPD non-emergency numbers are (619) 531-2000 or (858) 484-3154. In areas served by the San Diego County Sheriff the number is (858) 565-5200. The numbers for other city police departments can be found online or in a telephone directory.
  • Vehicles should be described by: year, make, model, color(s), VIN, insurance company and policy number, license plate number and state, and name of any tracking and locator system installed in the vehicle. Property should be described by type, make, model, serial number, and fair market value. It is important to report all vehicle crimes even if the loss is small and you are not planning to file an insurance claim. This enables the Department to assess the magnitude and nature of the problem and assign prevention, patrol, and enforcement assets accordingly.
  • If your vehicle is stolen in Mexico, report the theft to the local Mexican authorities and obtain a certified copy of the report. When you return home bring the report, your identification, and the vehicle title to a California Highway Patrol (CHP) office. After this, if you locate and recover your vehicle in Mexico, notify the U.S. Customs inspector when crossing the border. You will be sent to a secondary inspection area where a CHP or SDPD officer will examine the vehicle and check your identification. The officer will release the vehicle to the registered owner and remove it from the stolen-vehicle data base.
  • Etch your driver’s license number on all removable valuable items, e.g., audio equipment. Also etch the number on various places on the vehicle itself.
  • Don’t leave your driver’s license in the vehicle.
  • Keep a record of the VIN, license plate number, and insurance information in your wallet or purse. Also be able to provide the information listed above for any property that might be stolen from the vehicle.
  • Don’t leave your vehicle title (pink slip) in the vehicle.
  • Install a vehicle tracking and location system that can be activated after the vehicle is reported as stolen.
  • Spray microdots carrying the VIN all over the vehicle.