Think like a thief to protect your vehicle while on duty

As recent news shows, public safety employee vehicles are a soft target for thieves; here's how to make them harder

It’s easy to lose faith in humanity when you learn that public safety employees are a target for car vandalism and theft. With each call coming in, EMS workers are whisked from their station, and their vehicles, for an extended period of time. And thieves know it. 

Protecting your vehicle while away saving lives should be the last thing you need to worry about. However a recent slew of car break-ins reported at North Carolina fire stations prove that thieves are ruthless. 

Unless you hold your department's purse strings, there's not much you can do to strengthen your station's parking area security. But you can take steps to protect your own vehicle. 

5 car-thief tactics

In order to protect your vehicle and its contents from criminals, you need to think like a criminal. According to Edmunds, car thieves rely on tried-and-true tactics for targeting their victims. In order to stay a step ahead, anticipate the thieves’ tricks:

  1. Thieves look for car alarm decals to determine how they can eliminate the alarm.
  2. Thieves bump against their targeted car to check for a car alarm.
  3. Thieves look for exposed wiring that can be cut or for the central unit of the car alarm to deactivate it. 
  4. The National Insurance Crime Bureau warns drivers that thieves can acquire keys illegally by posing as a legitimate vehicle owner seeking a replacement from a dealership or locksmith.
  5. Various news outlets have also reported that thieves use tow trucks to steal cars.

So let’s put these insights to work. Knowing common practices of car thieves means you can better protect yourself. 

7 ways to protect your vehicle

  1. Have a solid alarm system. Or at the very least, a blinking light in your car that signifies yes, your car does have an alarm. 
  2. This might seem painfully obvious, but we have to include it. Don’t keep valuables in your car, especially if those valuables are easily spotted through your windows. Having visible valuables in your car gives a thief added incentive to break in — they know exactly what loot they could grab. 
  3. Park defensively so that it will be difficult if a thief tries to use a tow truck on your vehicle. Park your vehicle with wheels turned toward the curb or turned hard to the side. This position of wheels makes it more difficult to be towed. 
  4. Don’t leave a spare key anywhere in or on your car. If a thief finds a key, it’s open season to unlock and ransack your car, or worse, start the ignition and skip town. Bonus tip: A key won’t matter if you don’t lock your doors in the first place. Always lock up.
  5. Never leave the registration or title in your car. Upon breaking in, finding a registration or title is gold. It allows a thief to easily obtain a new key from a locksmith, and the thief could use it to sell your stolen car. 
  6. The cleaner your car is, the more protected you are from thieves. According to the widely- accepted Broken Windows Theory, maintaining and monitoring urban environments (in this case your car) may stop further vandalism and escalation. 
  7. Consider buying a cheap work car. Hop on Craigslist and check out cars in a comfortable price range. It is common to find cars in “bring to work” condition for under $3,000. The small investment will protect your nicer vehicle from more expensive damage. 

6 ways you can help as an employer

The last thing your staff should be worried about on the job is the safety of their vehicles and whether they are being stolen or vandalized during their shifts. Chiefs should take these actions to increase the safety of their crews’ personal property: 

  1. Make sure parking areas are well lit and visible from indoor work areas.
  2. Install surveillance cameras in parking areas, especially parking entrances and exits.
  3. Build a fence around the parking area with a gate that can be opened only by employees. 
  4. Incentivize employees to carpool or use public transit to get to the station, especially those working from stations in high-crime neighborhoods. 
  5. Periodically check parking areas, move vehicles and reassign parking spaces so thieves can't easily discern a pattern of occupancy. 
  6. Finally, report all on-duty vehicle break-ins to local law enforcement and insurance companies. Work closely with your law enforcement partners to deter thieves and investigate thefts. 

The more you know about the way thieves work, the easier it will become to defend your property.

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