COLUMBUS, Ohio --- According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB), there is an average of 1.2 million motor vehicle thefts each year, making vehicle theft the nation's No. 1 property crime.
"The good news is that there are a few tips you can follow and devices you can have installed to keep your vehicle from becoming a target," said Mark Russell, vice president and chief administrative officer at Grange Insurance and chairman of the board for the NICB. "Driving a vehicle with anti-theft devices not only deters thieves but can also help reduce your overall insurance premiums."
Before purchasing a used vehicle, Russell advises researching the vehicle's history since most stolen vehicles are sold to unsuspecting consumers. To assist motorists in determining whether a vehicle has been reported as stolen, the NICB manages VINCheck, a database that contains a list of vehicles that have been reported stolen but not recovered.
To perform a search in the database, consumers need to provide a vehicle identification number (VIN), which can be found on a metal plate in the engine compartment or etched onto the vehicle's windows or lamps. For more information about VINCheck or to perform a vehicle search, visit www.nicb.org.
"A significant number of vehicles are stolen each year because people unwittingly make it easy for thieves," said Robert M. Bryant, president and chief executive officer of the NICB. "The easiest and most cost-effective protection against vehicle theft is to simply lock your car and take your keys. Beyond that, the additional safeguards below will deliver more security and peace of mind."
According to the NICB, the most sought-after vehicle by auto thieves is the Honda Civic, and the Midwest city with the highest number of auto thefts is Detroit.
Grange Insurance suggests the following tips to safeguard your vehicle:
** An unlocked vehicle with the key in the ignition is an open invitation to any thief, regardless of which anti-theft device you use. It is always best to lock your car even if you are only parked for a brief period of time.
** Having a visible or audible device that alerts thieves that your vehicle is protected is another good way to ensure that your car remains where you left it. Popular devices include audible alarms, steering column collars, brake or wheel locks, tire deflators, theft deterrent decals, window etching and laminated glass.
** Another good method is having a device that prevents thieves from bypassing your ignition and hot-wiring the vehicle. Some of these electronic gadgets have computer chips in the ignition keys. Others inhibit the flow of electricity or fuel to the engine until a hidden button or switch is activated. Recommended devices include smart keys, fuse cut-offs, kill switches and starter, ignition and fuel disablers.
** A tracking system emits a signal to your local police station or monitoring station once the vehicle has been reported stolen. Tracking devices, such as OnStar, are very effective in helping authorities recover stolen vehicles. In the unfortunate event that your vehicle is stolen, Grange recommends taking the following action:
-- Contact your local police department as soon as possible.
-- Make sure you have your vehicle information available. This includes year, make, model, color, license plate number, approximate time of theft, location of theft and if there are any eyewitnesses.
-- Contact your insurance company. To help expedite your claim, make sure to have your policy number and details of the incident ready to give to your auto insurance agent.
"Just like your home, your vehicle is an important and expensive asset to protect," said Russell. "Taking the steps to proactively protect your vehicle can greatly minimize your chances of becoming an auto theft victim."