It will surprise many vehicle owners to learn that car crime accounted for an unlucky 13% of all recorded crime in England and Wales in 20081. It's a shocking statistic and one that leaves more than one and a half million motorists2 out of pocket each year.
Having your car broken-into or stolen is traumatic enough, but you'll also be looking at paying the excess and you can wave goodbye to your no-claims bonus. The flip side is that by improving your car's security you can reduce your insurance premium. So not only can you avoid the headache of vehicle crime, but you can also make some serious savings.
The following steps are simple, cheap and proven to be effective in reducing car crime:
Park securely: In an ideal world everyone would have a garage they could lock-up safely at night. However, for most motorists off-street parking in a driveway is a more realistic option. Security can be greatly improved by fitting motion detector lighting to deter would-be criminals, and if you must park on the street make sure it's in a well-lit area. Bear in mind that the highest proportion of all car crime takes place in the street outside the owner's house, so don't be complacent.3
Fit an immobiliser: Immobilisers work in a variety of ways by preventing the ignition, starter motor or fuel pump from working. However, they all do the same thing and that's safeguard your car from theft. Fitting an immobiliser is the single most cost-effective way to reduce your insurance premium, provided it is 'Thatcham' or 'Sold Secure' approved and fitted by a member of the Vehicle Systems Installation Board (VSIB).
Remove temptation: Opportunist thieves break into cars to steal absolutely anything, so don't give them the opportunity. Electrical items are favourite targets, but bags and clothing are also popular. Keep your car's interior clutter free with any valuables locked-up and out of sight in the boot. Similarly empty your glove box and leave it open to show that you've got nothing to hide. And finally don't forget to wipe-off the circular suction mark that your Sat-Nav leaves on your windscreen; they attract thieves like bees to honey.
Fit an alarm: If you haven't got a factory-fitted alarm you can cut the cost of your insurance by getting a car alarm fitted. The market is awash with alarms detecting everything from a window being broken to your bonnet being opened. Quality varies enormously so check with your insurer that your alarm is approved and it will earn you a discount.
Be careful with your keys: With advances in vehicle security over the years; one of the easiest ways for a thief to steal your car is to first get their hands on your keys. According to the British Crime Survey seven percent of all household burglaries in 2008 involved taking a vehicle, so make sure that your spare set of keys are well hidden4 Keys left on the hall table can be 'fished' through the letter box and a bunch of keys left on your office desk is an open invitation. The rising trend for 'car key burglaries' seems set to continue as a growing number of vehicles are stolen to order.
Fit wheel locks: When was the last time you saw a car propped up on bricks? Wheels are easy prey for thieves especially if you have a set of alloys. Locking wheel nuts are an effective deterrent, plus they are cheap to buy and easy to fit.
Get your windows etched: Etching is a tried and tested way to frustrate car cloners. With the last seven digits of your Vehicle Identity Number (or registration) etched on to your windows, headlights and mirrors; anyone trying to change your car's identity will really have their work cut out.
Steering wheel lock: Given that experienced car thieves can remove a steering wheel in less than a minute (and 'yes' they do carry spares), some question the effectiveness of steering wheel locks. However, they do provide a cheap deterrent that's likely to put off all but the most determined criminal. Handbrake and gearstick locks provide a similar alternative.
Preventing vehicle crime is all about making life more difficult for criminals, and by taking any of the measures outlined above you are reducing the risk of your car being broken into or stolen.
Notes: The majority of the facts and figures in this article are taken from the British Crime Survey (BCS)