Auto theft is often a crime of opportunity, as opposed to being an act carried out by a professional crime ring. Think of young people who walk by a vehicle and see that the window is down, and the keys are in the ignition. They have no intention of keeping the car for long, they simply impulsively jump in and cruise around looking for some friends to join them until they tire of the game, and usually simply abandon the stolen car. To avoid car theft by opportunity, make your vehicle unaccesible. Lock it up, don’t leave the ignition key in, and don’t leave your car running while you run in to the post office.
Car KeysI have had 2 of my cars stolen here in Colorado. I had an old Bel-Air, the ignition turned over without a key. I seriously thought no one who happened to be wandering by would be aware of the security problem, I was wrong. I woke up one morning and went out my car, it was gone. The second time happened many years later. My husband is a professional musician. he plays gigs late at night, and when finished, has a lot of music equipment to load up before he can come home. We live in a ski town, where 40 inches of snow a year is not uncommon, and it gets quite cold at night, especially at 2 a.m. when musicians are leaving their gigs. My husband started up his Jeep to get it warmed up, went instead the venue to pack up his equipment, then went out to the car to start loading, and the Jeep was gone. A 15 minute window in a very small town with sub zero temperatures at 2 a.m. and a thief found an opportunity to steal his Jeep, and did so. It is astounding how no matter where you are, someone will take advantage of an opportunity to make off with your car.
Nationwide, foreign cars are a hot target, with Honda models leading the list of most often stolen vehicle. Many of us have imported cars, so it could be as simple as what product is most available to thieves, or it could be what is easiest for crime rings to turn over.
Colorado’s Top Ten Stolen Vehicles in 2012 (NICB)
1996 Honda Accord
1997 Honda Civic
2000 Jeep Cherokee/Grand Cherokee
1997 Ford Pick-Up (Full Size)
1999 Chevrolet Pick-Up (Full Size)
1994 Acura Integra
2001 Dodge Pick-Up (Full Size)
2003 Ford Explorer
1994 Toyota Camry
2004 Subaru Impreza
Colorado Auto Theft by Location in 2012 (NICB)
Each year, the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) studies Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs), or major metropolitan areas to compare the number of vehicle thefts per 100,000 people.
Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA)
out of 380 MSAs
2012 Auto Theft Rate
per 100,000 people
JeepIf your car’s ignition does not activate with a key, but rather a RF fob, you’re no less safe from car theft. The “opportunist” walking by with no pre-determined intent to steal a vehicle will pass on by, but anyone can buy a hacking device that silences alarms and program blank key fobs. Theft of a car by “hack,’ became quite a problem for BMW and Audi for a while. But any car using wireless entry is vulnerable. If people can hack computers (and they do, constantly,) then they can hack your car codes. One method is using equipment that intercepts and steals the transmitted code from the key fob as the driver presses the lock button. There are several demo video’s on YouTube and elsewhere, where a thief” demonstrates how ridiculously fast she can steal a keyless car with a bit of technology. Automakers try and stay a step ahead of various car hacks that thieves use.
According to snopes, automakers have switched to “rolling codes,” which change constantly, as opposed to one standard signal used by your key fob to unlock or start your car.
“It is theoretically possible for a thief armed with the right technology and the ability to manipulate it correctly to snatch a modern keycode from the air and use it to enter a vehicle. However, it’s unclear how many (if any) crooks have managed to overcome the issues of complexity and time involved in the process to use it as a practical means of stealing from cars. If the scheme requires would-be thieves to have specialized knowledge and equipment and spend hours (or more) crunching data and replicating a device to produce a correct entry code, its application to boosting valuables from cars in parking lots would be rather limited. “
No matter what kind of car we have, or where we are, thieves look for opportunities. Professional crime rings do it, and people who see an opening (like a key in the ignition) will do it. They will use ingenuity and technology, they will keep coming up with new methods to rip off your vehicle. Keep your car locked up. If you want more tips to avoid auto theft, talk to your auto technician.