CPD Crime Prevention tip: Vehicle thefts, crimes of opportunity

Vehicle thefts are crimes of opportunity, which occur at all hours, day and night. 

Thefts from a vehicle generally have one thing in common: personal belongings, such as purses, bags, clothing, laptops and other electronic devices, that are left in vehicles. Keep in mind anything can be of value to a thief.

Theft prevention starts before you leave your vehicle

Smash-and-grab thieves typically aren’t criminal masterminds who craft clever schemes to swipe your stuff. Most are casual opportunists.

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They see something they like, so they break in and take it. So before you get out of your car, make sure your valuables are out of sight.

If you leave property visible in your vehicle, your vehicle is automatically a target.  Never leave these things lying out on your seats, dashboard or floor:

  • Phone (charging cords also)
  • Purse or wallet 
  • Laptop (or its bag)
  • A briefcase or backpack 
  • Shopping bags 
  • An MP3 player or other small electronics 
  • Cash – yes, even loose change/coins
  • Your keys – it actually happens!
  • Cigarettes
  • Weapons     

Car smash-and-grabs happen out of sight.

Most thieves go solo. The last thing they want is a crowd of onlookers with cell phones and pepper spray ready.

So try to keep your car highly visible:

  • Park near other people.
  • Go for busy lots where there is plenty of pedestrian and vehicle traffic. 
  • After dark, park in a well-lit area or near a lamppost. 
  • Choose a lot with an attendant over one without.

Discourage thieves with anti-theft measures

Thieves are also lazy. With car break-ins, they’re usually not looking for a huge payoff. What this type of thief wants is a quick thrill – or maybe a little extra revenue – for as little work as possible.

By making your car a harder target for these people, you make it less desirable. So:

  • Always lock your doors and close all windows and sun roof and take your keys. 
  • Activate your security system if you have one. 
  • Don’t use the console or glove box as mobile lock boxes. These are obvious to thieves, too.
  • Never leave your vehicle running unattended. Vehicles are commonly stolen at walk up ATMs or convenience stores.
  • Never hide a second set of keys in or on your vehicle. Thieves know all the hiding places.

While storing items in your trunk is better than having them visible in your car, thieves know this and look for you to put them there when you park. Instead, store them before you arrive on-site and avoid storing items in your trunk for long periods of time.

Consider window tinting (if permitted by local laws), since it makes casing your car more difficult. 

Use after-market measures, like mechanisms that lock the steering wheel to protect your car and alert thieves that you’ve taken extra security measures.

Look out for suspicious activity

Watch for these signs thieves nay be lurking in a parking lot:

  • People walking up and down the parking lot aisles looking into cars or trying door handles
  • Vehicles driving around parking lots at very slow speeds for extended periods of time while observing parked cars
  • People on bicycles or electronic scooters casing the parking lot

Questions? Contact Chambersburg Police Department, 116 S. Second St. Non‐emergency: 717-264-4131 Emergency: 911

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