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Roll me Away. Won't you roll me away tonight.
                           With apologies to Bob Seger

Car Theft, Motorcycle, Bicycle and Trailer

On this page:
(Car Theft) #1: Garage | #2: Driveway | #3: Alarm | #4: Tracking Device | #5: Don't Leave It Running | #6: Theft Insurance | (Motorcycle Theft) #7: Garage | #8: Chain It | #9: Chain It TO Something | (Bicycle Theft) #10: Don't Use Combo Locks | #10: Front Yard | #12: Inside | #13: Chain To Immovable Ojbects | (Trailer Theft) #14: Inside Fenced Area | #15: Anchor It | #16: Motion Sensor

As explained on the carjacking page of the robbery section, auto theft is a big business. It is in fact an international, billion-dollar-a-year business. Movies such as Gone in 60 Seconds and Downtown can give you an idea of the size of the auto theft industry and exactly how far reaching it is. It also can show you why things like "clubs" and other cheap security devices are of little use to stop car thieves.

The other topics discussed on this page are not as big a business, but are still possible and expensive. Even with the ideas presented here, it is advisable to get theft insurance with any high-priced item.

Tip #1 Park Your Car in the Garage or Behind a Locked Gate.
This is your all-time best defense.

Reason: Most cars are stolen off the street or from parking areas. Putting your car into a garage not only saves the finish, but tends to deter auto thieves. They risk detection by dogs, motion sensors and even homeowners by coming on the property. Locked garages and gates create another level of difficulty for the thief who intends to quietly sneak in and steal. If you don’t lock the gate, at least put a bell or other noise-making device on it.

Find tips on how to better secure your garage  or storage areas at this link.
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Tip #2 Park in Your Driveway
Even if you don't have a garage or gate, pull in as far as you can.

Reason: Although not as effective as putting your car in the garage, the driveway also can also serve as a deterrent. So does parking a second -- not as appealing -- car behind the "top 10" vehicle. Again, motion detectors, gates, dogs and alarms serve as early detection systems and deterrents. In addition, the alarm on a car in the driveway is also less likely to be accidentally tripped by traffic or passersby. So if you hear it, you know something is wrong.

It is important to realize that car thieves aren't after your car. They could care less who it belongs to. They are usually more interested in getting a particular make and model. And anyone's vehicle will do. If one is too difficult, they can always get another, just down the road. So make yours just a little more difficult to steal than the next one. Return to top of page

Tip #3 Install a Car Alarm -- Especially if It's in an Apartment Parking Lot (or on the Street) .
Large apartment complex parking lots are literally supermarkets for car thieves.

Reason: They drive through and find the cars they are looking for. Often, while stealing one car, they will spot another model they want and come back for it later. Why go shopping elsewhere? This is especially true if there is no security guard to patrol the premises.

An auto alarm won't stop thieves, but it might alert someone. The witness who looks out the window, sees someone jump into a car and another car speed away before the first car's alarm cuts off, realizes that something is seriously wrong. He or she might even go as far as waking the rent-a-cop who is supposed to be patrolling the grounds. If your neighbor knows it is your car, and she sees someone else jumping in and speeding away, a knock on your door lessens the time before the police are notified, increasing the chances of recovery.

Whether or not an alarm does any good to deter a car thief might be a debatable issue. What is not debatable is the fact that it can lower your insurance rates. Return to top of page

Tip #4 Better Yet Get a Lojack or Onstar Type Service.
The only debate about this is whether or not to label your car with the sign.

Reason: Automobile security tracking devices are good for fast recovery. By using a GPS-based system the computer can locate your stolen car any time and anywhere.

The debate is whether to label it or not. The argument for labeling is that it will deter many would-be thieves. The argument against is that many thieves know how to disable these units -- especially if you have a specialty vehicle that would attract a professional. A professional car thief keeps up on the technology and knows how to circumvent it. By not labeling your window, the auto thief won't know beforehand that he has to disable the system.

They also can be used to track the thieves to the "chop shop." So don't be surprised if the police ask you to participate in a sting operation by leaving your car in the "cooling off spot" (that's the place where it was parked by the thief until it goes off the "hot sheet"). If there is a major ring operating in the area, waiting for the car thief to return and then following him to the "chop shop" is one way for police to break it up.

This, too, is a good way to lower your insurance rates. Return to top of page

Tip #5 NEVER Leave Your Car Running Unattended.
Even if you are just dashing in for "just a moment" or "letting it warm up"

Reason: If you walk down the street and see a $100 bill would you pick it up? To a criminal, this is literally the same thing. A running car is an opportunity that just falls into his lap. He will take it, even if he is not by profession an automobile thief. This also applies to "warming up your car" in colder climates, which is called "puffing" by criminals. Although many automobile thefts occur at night, jumping into and driving away a puffing car is just as common in colder climates
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Tip #6 Get Theft Insurance
Before you buy a new car, go to the police station and ask which ones are the hottest cars for theft at the moment. Compare that with the list your insurance company has on cars most likely to be stolen. Not buying a car on the "hot wheels" list can save you lots and lots of money on insurance because a car's theft popularity definitely affects its insurance rate.

Reason: Cars are most often stolen for parts. The vehicle is generally chopped up and sold to shady body shops. The shop pays $1,000 for a stolen part that the manufacturer would charge $5,000 for. The shop then turns around and charges you the dealer price plus their markup. By doing this, the shop made an additional $4,000 profit.

The risk of theft lasts until enough of the car model becomes available in the junkyards -- where parts can be legally purchased for a reduced price. When considering buying a new car, check to see if it has a high theft record. If yes, then insure it against theft.

Once a car is taken to a "chop shop," it is gone. A car can be totally disassembled within an hour by a four-man, well-equipped team. And in this business, an hour would be a pathetically slow time. Return to top of page

Tip #7 Put It in Your Garage

This tip goes double for motorcycles. Although motorcycle theft is not as big a business, it is still common and many of the same measures that prevent your car being stolen will protect your motorcycle, as well.

Reason: The fastest and quietest way to steal a motorcycle is to pull up in a truck, have a few guys jump out, pick it up and load it.

Because motorcycles can be easily picked up, it is better to put them inside a secured garage -- even if this means buying a storage shed. Return to top of page

Tip #8 When You Park It for the Night, Chain It.
More specifically, use encased steel cord and an American commercial lock.

Reason: While many motorcycle thefts occur from commercial parking lots, most are stolen from garages and apartment parking lots. Chain it up if the motorcycle is going to sit for any length of time in such an area. Return to top of page

Tip #9 Chain Your bike to Something
Although it looks nowhere near as cool, your best bets to protect your motorcycle from being stolen are the same habits you had as a child to protect your bicycle.

Reason: By chaining your bike to something, i.e., cemented anchor, concrete reinforced pole, etc., you prevent it from being picked up and carried away. By snaking the cable through wheel, frame and around something, nobody is going to get it by simply taking off the front wheel.

The reason those U-shaped, front wheel locks don't prevent your motorcycle from being stolen is that, when the motorcycle thieves pick it up and carry it to the truck, the wheels don't need to roll. This is why it is better to anchor a motorcycle to something that can't be moved. Return to top of page

Tip #10 Don't Use Combination Locks or Chains
Combination locks are easily picked, chains are easily cut

Reason: As stated on the protecting your garage page, we don't normally recommend a specific product. The American Lock commercial line, however, is without question the finest we have seen. Although expensive, when you are protecting a $15,000 to $20,000 motorcycle, they are well worth the investment.

Whether protecting a motorcycle or a bicycle from theft, avoid combination locks and stick with keyed locks. Combination locks -- especially those long three tumbler units that retail for about $10 -- are easy to pick. In fact, sitting around and learning how to pick locks is often a juvenile pastime. Key locks are much harder.

Go for case-hardened, encased cable instead of chains. For motorcycles, you might also want to look into what Cobra, which are articulated case-hardened units. They use a circular ball bearing locking system, which is one of the most difficult type locks to pick (that's why you see them on vending machines). Return to top of page

Tip #11 Don't Leave the Bicycle Lying in the Front Yard.

This simple rule will go miles for keeping your bike from being stolen and your parents off your back.

Reason: Stealing bicycles is usually a crime of opportunity. A kid walking down the street sees a bike just lying there, grabs it and rides off.

In the same, vein if you have to leave your bike locked outside (e.g. to a pipe or something), put it around the back of the apartment buildings where someone just passing by can't see it
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Tip #12 Take It Inside. Whether garage or your apartment, inside is best.

Reason: Even though bike thieves tend not to be professionals, they often are young enough to be bold. They will come onto your property and even onto your porch to steal. It's just all around better to leave your bike inside if you want it to be there the next morning.

If room is an issue, there are many storage units that allow you to hang your bike up high. Return to top of page

Tip #13 Chain It to Something
If you can't take your bike inside, chain it to something that isn't going to move without massive work.

Reason: Use porch pole, guard rail, exposed water or sewer lines, fence pole, anything that cannot be moved or easily cut through. This does wonders to keep yours from joining the long list of stolen bicycles. Don't use chains and cheap locks. Make sure that the cable snakes through the body, the front wheel and around to whatever you are chaining it to. Also make sure that the bike can't be lifted over it (e.g. parking meter).

If your chain isn't that long, get one that is. The shorter one is useless. Return to top of page

Theft of Trailers and Other Heavy Equipment
Tip #14 Put It in a Fenced Area.
Boats, trailers and other heavy equipment that can be attached to a truck and towed need to be protected from theft. Use the deterrents provided by your other security measures.

Reason: Before thieves can reach the trailer, they have to get through other deterrents. Basically, if you can afford it,  rent space in an RV/Trailer storage area. Return to top of page

Tip # 15 Secure It to an Anchor or Use Wheel Locks
Trailers don't get stolen if they can't be rolled.

Reason: In long-term storage, you can either attach it to an anchor embedded in concrete or lock the wheels so they don't roll.

A big block of concrete buried in the ground with a case hardened U bolt embedded into it isn't going anywhere -- nor is anything secured to it. A case hardened cable through the wheels and around the frame with an American Lock, and that trailer isn't going to be easily rolled.

Tip #16 Put in a Motion Sensor
If you must leave the trailer outside your normal security area, you can place small alarms that will go off if they are moved or shaken.

Reason: These units are often put on doors. When the door is opened, they go off. By hanging them from a boat's steering wheel before covering it for the night, you protect the sensor from the weather and from being seen by boat thief.

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