A report just out of the National Insurance Crime Bureau says that six out of the top ten locations for auto theft are in the state of California. Statements like that used to make me feel incredibly secure, here in rural Atlantic Canada, at the far side of the continent!

But you know, that’s changing…

A couple months ago we had someone break into our garage — while we were at home, peacefully sleeping, too! They made off with a lawnmower and a small chainsaw, items they can turn around easily to get some quick drug money, but I think the dogs must have scared them off because they didn’t finish removing our (very modest) car stereo.

That’s the first time in a decade we’ve been the victim of any kind of criminal activity, and it sure makes you stop and think. The world ain’t what it used to be, even out here in the country… and now we’re careful to lock the car even when its parked in the garage (which has a new deadbolt, by the way!).

The guys who are putting in our new windows say they always lock their truck and put the windows up when they’re working in town, even when they’re parked right on the job site in the daytime. I guess you have to, even in a small town, nowadays.

Nancy Pierce, regional vice president of GEICO in San Diego (where they know a little something about auto theft), says that a big part of an insurance company’s job is encouraging their customers to take basic theft-prevention measures. They’re really trying to get the word out.

I’ve read somewhere that insurance companies say an astonishing number of car thefts (or thefts of belongings from cars) are “crimes of opportunity” — because the car wasn’t locked, or it was parked in a dark corner which gave thieves the privacy they needed to break in. Or the car was left with the sunroof open or windows down far enough for easy access. (I can’t count how many times I’ve done that myself, in really hot weather!)

I guess that a lot of these things come under the heading of basic common sense, like staying out of the bad part of town at night, or not leaving your car registration in the glove compartment, the first place a car theif would fumble around for it if he was stopped by the police while making a get-away.

But one suggestion on Nancy Pierce’s list I hadn’t thought about was the simple idea of leaving the car in “park” or in gear, instead of in neutral. And if you turn the wheels toward the curb or a lamp-post or some such solid object, it makes it all the harder for some thief to tow you car away.

Another thing I never thought of, which makes quite a difference when you go to compare car insurance packages and prices — they suggest to add some kind of anti-theft protection system, if your car doesn’t already have one.

Now, I think we’ve all had enough of those great shrieking car alarms that everyone ignores (or tries to ignore) because a good solid pigeon-dropping splat will set them off — how much good can those things do? You’ve got to wonder…

But those “clubs” that lock the steering wheel seem to be useful, as “a very visible sign that you’ve taken steps to protect your vehicle” and the thief would have to wonder what else you’ve got going… an ignition cut-off, maybe, to prevent a car from being started? A silent alarm? A GPS-type tracking system, like the ones that come installed in many of the newer cars? CarInsurance.com lets you comparison-shop for insurance deals and see which companies give discounts to customers who install alarm systems… and it seems to me it may be a cost-effective idea.

Hmm, I wonder if any insurance company will give a discount to people drive with a whopping big dog riding shotgun!

No, seriously, it really burns me that we work so hard to make ends meet, and to fix up the old place, and to have a decent little life — and yet the world has become so its not safe anywhere, not the way it used to be when we were growing up, or even just a few years back, when no one locked their doors to go next door for tea… It just sucks, to put it bluntly. But, as my mother always says, “what can’t be cured, must be endured” — and it can’t hurt to take a few precautions.

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