One crime you can really help us prevent is auto-burglary. Almost all auto-burglaries have one thing in common: something to steal. That is, something valuable left in the car, often in plain sight of a passing burglar. Many auto-burglaries are "crimes of opportunity". These crimes can often be avoided if simple preventative steps are taken.
It takes less than 30 seconds to break into a car, grab what is in plain view, check the usual hiding places for other items, and get away. How long would it take you to secure your valuables out of sight? Even less time. Auto-burglary prevention, like all crime prevention, involves limiting the criminal's ability and/or opportunity to commit the crime.
With very little time and effort, you can make a huge difference in your vulnerability to auto-burglary. We suggest taking these simple but important steps to avoid being a victim of auto burglary:
- Don't leave valuables in your car. That sounds like "common sense", but drivers/passengers do leave items of value in plain view every day. If you leave valuable items visible in your car, your car is automatically a target. Thieves are targeting purses, laptops, GPS units and MP3 players, which are easily sold.
- Additionally, computers, purses and wallets are highly desired targets that are stolen, to commit identity theft.
- If you must leave valuable items in your car while out and about, place items out of sight before reaching your destination or move them inconspicuously. Someone may be watching when you put items under a seat or throw something over them. An opportunistic thief is on the lookout for trunk-packing, and can break into your car the minute you're out of sight. One reason SUVs and pickups are common auto-burglary targets is because they don't have a "trunk" to hold valuables — the driver/passenger generally just "hides" their valuables "out of sight". The thieves know this, and do check glove compartments, behind seats, and under seats. It only takes a few seconds to check all the "usual" hiding places.
- Unobtrusively locking everything valuable "in the trunk" (if you have one) may be difficult when you're combining errands at multiple destinations. Certainly avoid leaving packages or shopping bags visible in your car — lock them in the trunk out of sight if you have to leave packages in your car unattended. Plan your shopping/errands so that you don't load your trunk until you are ready to drive to another destination.
- Never open a trunk, fill it full of valuables, close it, and then just walk away.
- Keep your car in good operating condition and always have plenty of gas to get "there and back" (it costs no more to keep the top quarter of the tank filled than to keep the bottom quarter-tank filled!); you don't want to have to leave your car (and valuable contents) sitting along the side of the road if that can be avoided.
- Once home, unload your valuables immediately. Do not store valuables in your car any longer than necessary, and certainly never overnight.
- If your trunk can be opened from inside your car without a key, lock this feature when you are not in your car or have it disabled,
- if possible. Leave no trace. Don't leave any "sign" that there might be valuables "out of sight" in your vehicle, such as docking stations or connector cables. Just leaving an empty docking station in plain sight, even if you've taken the high dollar component with you, may end up costing you hundreds of dollars to replace a broken window because the thief wanted to check your car for "hidden" valuables.
- Very few auto break-ins are "random" — the thieves see "something" in plain sight that's valuable, or hints of possible hidden valuables. Leave nothing in "plain sight" that might make your vehicle worth "investigating" by a thief; not even loose coins or a CD.
- If you have an after-market stereo/CD-player with a removable faceplate, remove it. Without the faceplate, the unit is less attractive/useful to many thieves, and harder to "fence." If the unit can be pulled, pull it! Take it with you. Just covering a valuable radio (or ANY valuables in your car) with something (like a blanket or towel) to hide it will probably only draw thieves' attention.
- Try to park in busy, well-traveled areas and well-lighted areas. Large anonymous lots are hit by thieves much more often than parking immediately adjacent to residential housing or other occupied buildings. Auto-burglars prefer breaking into cars where they will not be observed or attract attention, and choose their targets accordingly.
- Lock ALL your vehicle's doors even if you plan to be gone for only a brief time. Every month, we have items stolen from unlocked vehicles where the owner was only going to be gone "just for a second." It only takes seconds to steal your stuff! It's not at all uncommon for thieves to walk down a row of parked vehicles and check vehicle doors to see if they are unlocked. Don't leave any window open or even cracked open, including vent/wing windows and sunroofs.
- Set any alarm or anti-theft device. If you have one, use it! Many people believe that car-alarms no longer make a difference, but they can be an effective deterrent to an auto-burglar, who most often chooses the easiest target. If they have two cars to choose from, one with a visible indicator of an alarm system and one without, they will likely burglarize the one without (unless you've left out valuables just too good to ignore!). Locking your car and setting your alarm is just part of the solution. Even if locked and alarmed, if you leave valuables (or the hint of valuables) in plain sight, a thief may target your car, even knowing it's locked and alarmed. But, without a clear prize in sight, a locked/alarmed car will likely be bypassed for an easier "target of opportunity."
- Don't think your dark tinted windows will hide your valuables. Thieves often use flashlights to see through tint, and after-market tint is handy to keep all the broken glass in one "sheet" when they break out your window (and toss the broken window into your back seat or passenger seat to hide the evidence of the break-in from passerbys).
- Don't use "hide-a-keys." Thieves know the best places to hide those.
- Remember, just "locking" isn't enough. Keep your car OFF the target list of the thieves by keeping all hints of valuables totally out of sight. If they see something tempting, they certainly can break in.
- As a last line of defense (not really to prevent theft as much as to aid in recovery), mark your valuables. Recording serial numbers is important so the stolen items can be entered into a Nation-wide stolen property system.
- A serial number doesn't directly link you to your stolen property. We'd suggest inscribing/engraving a personal identifier on all valuables. Don't use your social security number (identity theft) — use your driver's license (DL) number, prefaced by your DL "state", such as "CA-N1234567". With that marking, any police officer can trace your valuable back to you, wherever it's recovered, and the chances of being reunited with your stolen valuables is dramatically increased.
What do you do if something is stolen out of your car? As soon as you notice something's stolen (or that your car has been broken into) do not touch/adjust anything in, on, or around the car. As soon as possible, call the police department having jurisdiction for the location the car is parked at to report the incident.
Report suspicious activity. Don't hesitate to call FCPD to report ANY suspicious activities, persons or vehicles. FCPD officers cannot be everywhere, and we count on good people to be our "eyes and ears" and report suspicious activities as they are occurring. Do your part by taking preventive action and spreading the word. You can make a difference.
"Suspicious Activity" would include:
- Persons walking up and down aisles of parking lots looking into cars or trying door handles
- Vehicles cruising parking lots at very slow speeds for extended periods while observing parked cars
- Persons making any kind of mark or placing anything ON parked vehicles
- Persons sitting in running parked cars for protracted periods
- Vehicles dropping one person off while continuing to cruise the same area. We'd prefer to check on an innocent citizen going about their business than to not check and end up taking theft-from-vehicle reports.
Suspicious persons or activities in parking lots or anywhere in town should be reported immediately to the Foster City Police by calling 9-1-1 or 573-3333.
For further information on how to keep your valuables safe and to protect yourself from identity theft, contact the Crime Prevention Bureau of the Foster City Police Department at 650-286-3300.
A final word: Do NOT confront anyone. Your life is precious; property can be replaced! BE ALERT, BE AWARE, and be prepared to BE A GOOD WITNESS.