When I bought my 300ZX, I installed a car alarm along with a stereo. One winter evening I heard the sirens of the alarm blaring and since I knew it had become sensitive to small gusts wind, I trudged out to the car to turn it off.
The disarm button on my keyless entry contraption (for lack of a better word) wouldn’t turn it off, even though I pressed it at least a dozen times, believing that maybe the 11th time it would finally work. I sat inside the car and put the key in the ignition, but that had no effect. By that time the alarm had been going for at least ten minutes and I hadn’t been approached by anyone. The only thing I got were a few annoyed looks as if to say, “Would you please shut off your dang car alarm?” In other words, if I had been stealing the car, no one would have cared or tried to stop me.
That experience made me much less confident in the value or utility of car alarms.
It turned out that the car had two alarms. Something had set off the factory alarm, which explains why my keyless entry for the after market alarm didn’t work. Unlocking the car door with my key instead of the keyless entry silenced the noise.
I sold the car a few months later and have not purchased a car alarm since. I’m content to remove the stereo faceplate to deter would-be thieves. I also make sure to remove any items in the visible interior that might catch the attention of a potential thief’s eye.
Strangely enough, my car has been right next to two cars that were burglarized, and both times it went untouched. The first time I was parked next to a car that had its antenna broken off. The antenna was used to break a window of the car next to it and a high-end video camera valued at $10,000 was stolen from the back seat. My stereo faceplate was on at the time because I had forgotten to remove it, but I didn’t have anything else in the car. I felt very lucky that day.
A year or so later, living in a different city, I came out to my car to go to work and found a police officer inspecting the truck next to me. Pieces of the driver’s side window were all over the cement floor. She informed me that it had been burglarized the night before and asked if there was any damage to my car, or if anything was missing. I checked things out and everything was where it was supposed to be and intact. Again, I was grateful.
Why I wasn’t a victim with those close calls I don’t know for sure, but I think it may be due to the blinking red light on the dash. It could cause just enough concern to make a thief move on to another car. In fact, any deterrent helps, because if there are ten cars in the garage and one doesn’t appear to have anything to steal and might cause them problems, they’ll move on. It reminds me of the joke about the two hikers walking through the woods. They both spot a vicious-looking bear. The first hiker immediately opens his backpack, pulls out a pair of sneakers and starts putting them on. The second hiker looks at him and says, “You’re crazy! You’ll never be able to outrun that bear.” The first hiker replies, “I don’t have to, I only have to outrun you.”
Our condo association had a police officer talk to us about security and he said cars that are backed into a parking spot are much less likely to be stolen or broken in to. He didn’t know why, but conjectured that it might be easier for other people to see a thief if the front of the car is facing outward.
The graph on automotive thefts from 1994 to 2001 shown in this article on automotive theft shows that car burglaries are on the rise. For some reason it dropped every year from 1994 to 1999. If we only we knew why it was dropping.
I’ve heard a lot of people say the Honda Accord and the Toyota Camry are the most stolen cars in the US, but did you ever stop to think about how many of them there are on the road? Not only are they popular, they last for a long time, so of course they are stolen most because of their sheer quantity. A study by HLDI, a research group funded by insurers, adjusted for the total number of each vehicle and looked only at 2000 to 2002 model-year vehicles. The study was mentioned in this CNN article about car theft, and it found that the Cadillac Escalade was at the top of the list.
In spite of my initial reaction that anyone who buys a gas-guzzling abomination like that deserves what they get, I still feel bad for the owners. However, with an MSRP starting at $54,700, I feel a lot worse for the Dodge Stratus owners in the number two position with an MSRP starting at $19,880. The Escalade owners could have bought 2.75 Dodge Stratuses. (or maybe that’s Dodge Strati?)
I find it amusing that after finding out their vehicle topped the most frequently stolen and highest amount paid out by insurance lists, General Motors issued a statement, “While we regret any vehicle being stolen, this is clear evidence that the Cadillac Escalade is in high demand.”
Now that’s marketing.