How to prevent your car from being stolen


Are you aware that, in this country, a motor vehicle theft occurs every 21 seconds? We are lousy at math, but some smarter person might figure out what that amounts to in one year. We can surmise that the figure is astronomical. And that’s not counting thefts FROM vehicles. And even identity theft resulting from personal papers/credit cards being stolen.

And yet, people continue to leave their cars unlocked. Or leave them running while they dash into a store for “only a few seconds.” Or leave money and/or valuables in full view.

Last week, Chief Mark Minichini and Capt. Victor Mesce of the Belleville Police Department released a comprehensive document in hopes of helping motorists protect themselves and the community from car-related crimes. While it was issued from Belleville, the advice obviously applies to all our Observer communities. Please read it and heed it.


  • Never leave your car running or the keys in the ignition when you’re away from it, even for “just a minute.”
  • Always roll up the windows and lock the car, even if it’s in front of your home.
  • Never leave valuables in plain view, even if your car is locked. Put them in the trunk or at least out of sight.
  • Park in busy, well-lighted areas.
  • Carry the registration and insurance card with you. Don’t leave personal identification documents or credit cards in your vehicle.
  • When you pay to park in a lot or garage, leave just the ignition key with the attendant. Make sure no personal information is attached. Do the same when you take your car for repairs.


  • Install a mechanical locking device — commonly called clubs, collars, or j-bars — that locks to the steering wheel, column, or brake to prevent the wheel from being turned more than a few degrees. Use it!
  • Investigate security systems if you live in a high-theft area or drive an automobile that’s an attractive target for thieves. You may get a discount on your auto insurance.


  • Etch the vehicle identification number (VIN) on the windows, doors, fenders, and trunk lid. This helps discourage professional thieves who have to either remove or replace etched parts before selling the car. Copy the VIN and your tag number on a card and keep it in a safe place. If your vehicle is stolen, the police need this information.
  • Approach your car with the key in hand. Look around and inside before getting in.
  • When driving, keep your car doors locked and windows rolled up at all times.


  • Be especially alert at intersections, gas stations, ATMs, shopping malls, convenience and grocery stores — all are windows of opportunity for carjackers.
  • Park in well-lighted areas with good visibility, close to walkways, stores and people.
  • If the carjacker has a weapon, give up the car with no questions asked. Your life is worth more than a car.


It works like this. A car, usually with a driver and at least one passenger, rear-ends or bumps you in traffic. You get out to check the damage. The driver or one of the passengers jumps in your car and drives off.

If you’re bumped by another car, look around before you get out. Make sure there are other cars around, then check out the car that rear-ended you and who’s in it. If the situation makes you uneasy, stay in your car and insist on moving to a police station or busy, well-lighted area to exchange information.


  • If your car is stolen, report it to the police immediately. Also, report abandoned cars to the local agency that handles removal.
  •  When buying a used car from an individual or a dealer, make sure you have the proper titles, that the VIN number is intact, and the “federal sticker” is on the inside of the driver’s door. That sticker should match the VIN.

— Karen Zautyk

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