When we think about automobile crime, we tend to focus on car theft, thieves that will make off with your entire vehicle. Obviously, that is a huge concern and one you should definitely take steps to protect yourself from. But, statistically speaking, you’re more likely to be the victim of a more mundane crime – the run-of-the-mill vehicle break-in.
Every year hundreds of thousands of vehicles are broken into in Ontario. While this isn’t quite as traumatic as an outright vehicle theft, it can still be an expensive and frustrating experience.
In a best case scenario where the thieves were experienced and careful, all you might have are some paint scratches where a slim Jim was used. More commonly though you’ll be looking at a broken window. No matter what kind of vehicle you own, windows are costly to replace and unless you have comprehensive insurance, you’re likely to be on the hook for the full price of repairs. On the bright side, homeowners insurance may cover any stolen belongings – but you need to prove exactly what was taken, which isn’t always easy to do. It’s far better to avoid the situation in the first place!
Vehicle break-ins are not entirely random. Thieves looking for a quick score will gravitate towards targets that look like they’ll offer a decent return for the risk they are taking. Thieves will peek through the windows for any valuables they can spot and an easy way to help protect your vehicle is to make your car look less tempting by avoiding a few of the most common break-in targets.
To that end, here are some of the items you should never leave in your car:
Sometimes it’s just easier to toss a bag on the passenger seat or in the back instead of opening the trunk. Maybe a big giant truck has pulled up right to your bumper, or it’s raining, and you don’t want to fuss with the trunk and get even more soaked before climbing into the car. But unless you’re going right home, you should always make the effort to store any purchases in the trunk where they are safely out of sight from potential smash-and-grab artists.
Even so-called small purchases can be enticing for someone desperate enough to smash a window in hopes of a quick buck. You might wonder who would risk jail time for a few bags of groceries, but groceries are a surprisingly common target for car break-ins. Never assume your purchase couldn’t possibly interest anyone.
If you’re a smoker, chances are you’ve left a pack of cigarettes on your dash or in the center console between seats at some point. Cigarettes are by nature one of those things you’re going to be getting in and out of your pockets and moving around a bit, and it’s easy to lose track and leave a pack in eyesight. This can be a costly mistake though. You don’t want to come back out from a store to find your window smashed out just to support someone’s nicotine addiction. Always take them with you or tuck them out of sight.
Cell Phones and Electronics
Cell phones, laptops, and other gadgets represent a two-pronged risk. Not only are they a lightning rod for thieves and expensive to replace, they also present a serious privacy risk. It’s bad enough to have to replace your $400 phone because you thought you’d only be in the store for a second, it’s another to find out your email, bank account, or other personal account has been compromised by the same thief.
If you regularly travel with portable electronics, be sure to keep everything password protected at all times. Yes, it can be a pain when you just want to check something on your phone and it prompts you for a password, but it will save your bacon if you happen to lose it while out and about.
Knapsacks and Purses
“Blind boxes” are one of the biggest marketing crazes of the past five years. From pop culture staples like little figurines of movie and video game characters, to the biggest cosmetic brands in the world, it seems people can’t resist the idea of buying something with a little risk involved. In these blind box purchases, you generally have some idea of what you’re going to get (there are usually only so many possibilities), but you’re sure what exactly lies in wait. It’s an addictive little thrill connected to a product you’re generally going to like.
When you leave a knapsack, purse, or briefcase in view, you’re essentially offering the blind box experience to would-be thieves. They can see somethings there, but the only way to know exactly is to get their hands on it and find out. Is that purse full of cash money or wadded up Kleenexes and old receipts? Is that a laptop in that bag, or just a really big text book? It’s so exciting you almost can’t blame them for breaking your window and unwrapping their new toy! (Except for the part where you, and the police, totally can and should blame them to the fullest extent of the law.)
Medication is a tricky one, because on one hand it seems like a good idea to keep some in the vehicle, especially in the winter. It can be life saving to have an essential pill or two in an emergency kit in case you get stuck on the road for a long period of time or forced to make an emergency overnight stay in a motel. However, outside of a winter road kit (ideally stored under the seat where it is not visible) medications can be risky to leave around. Any kind of pill container or pharmaceutical bag, even over the counter stuff, can be an enticing target for desperate thieves (who may be dealing with substance abuse issues themselves). So, if you are keeping any medication in the car, it needs to be hidden.
Also, it’s worth remember that heat can damage the quality of your medication. It won’t make it toxic or anything, but many drugs become less effective if left in high temperatures. So be sure to rotate out any emergency meds you’ve stored in your car over the summer season.