How to Discourage Break-Ins

a woman driving a car

Keep your car safe from thieves with these tips.

“One of the worst feelings in the world is to get back to your car and see your window broken and some of your possessions gone,” says Bill Windsor, associate vice president of consumer safety for Nationwide. The fact is, it’s far too easy to become a victim of a vehicle break-in: Every year, there are about 1.85 million such incidents, with more than $1.2 billion in personal items and accessories stolen from cars. “Fortunately,” says Windsor, “there are a number of things you can do to reduce the chances of a break in.”

Protect your property by taking the following steps to avoid a break-in:

Avoid eye appeal

Criminals scout for opportunities, looking for purses, computer bags, smartphones, iPods, etc. that can be seen from the window of a vehicle. Make sure these valuables are not visible. And take the car keys with you on your way out. These tips may seem obvious, but sometimes when drivers are rushing or distracted, common sense can falter. Two out of every five people don’t hide their valuables in vehicles. One-quarter leaves a wallet or purse inside, and one-half display mail in their car. (If either of these items were swiped, not only would there be property loss, but also potential identity theft.)

Leave no trace

Even if drivers remember to stash electronic devices, they too often forget about the telltale accessories that tip off intruders, like power plugs, iPod adapters and navigation-system windshield suction-cup mounts. Place these giveaways out of sight, too.

Hide it before you drive

Here’s what law authorities say about thieves: They stake out retail parking lots and look for shoppers who are placing items in trunks. Although it’s advisable to load personal items (such as computer bags or packages) in the trunk as a precautionary measure, it’s best to do so before you leave your home for the store, so you don’t tip your hand.

Stay visible

Although you don’t want the vehicle’s interior to attract attention, you need to increase the profile of your actual ride. If you don’t have a garage, park the car in a well-lit part of the street that has lots of traffic. Likewise, if you’re shopping, park in a highly visible location.

Turn it off

One-third of motorists admit they’ve kept an unoccupied automobile running, either to heat it up during the cold months or while running a quick errand. That’s not only inviting a break-in, it’s a perfect setup for outright car theft. More than 720,000 vehicles were stolen in 2011, according to the most recently made available annual data from the FBI data. Turn off your car and lock your doors and windows each and every time you exit your car.

Choose your next car with safety in mind

“Before buying a car, visit the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety and check the list of favorite cars that thieves like to steal,” says Windsor. Want another deterrent? “Many cars today have factory-installed auto-theft devices; look for these when buying a car,” adds Windsor. “These devices will discourage break-ins and can earn you a lower insurance premium.”

Ward off car thieves with an anti-theft device, and you may be able to get a discount on your Nationwide car insurance in some states.