Guest post by Captain Frederick W. Zumbo (Ret.), Executive Director Arizona Auto Theft Authority (AATA)
Our society is enamored with driving and our individual freedom is often connected with the ability to jump in our car and drive to wherever we would like. The criminal element is aware of this and takes advantage of people distracted by everyday life to steal vehicles. Unfortunately, many of these vehicle thefts lead to additional crimes and events which are effecting the quality of life in our neighborhoods.
We, in law enforcement, are seeing an increase in vehicle theft across the country. The preliminary statistics from the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) are showing a 6.6% increase in vehicle thefts in the United States from 2015 to 2016. Not only are the numbers for theft increasing, but carjacking, police pursuits and reckless driving are also becoming more prevalent, putting the public at risk. The insurance industry needs to be concerned with this trend because the collateral damage a stolen vehicle can cause when used to commit other crimes can be more than any insurance policy can cover. A common theme we hear when dealing with stolen vehicles is “It’s only a property crime, the insurance company will pay for it,” but tell that to the grieving family of an innocent victim who lost their life in a collision involving a stolen vehicle.
Vehicle theft is an important link to other crimes as criminals generally do not use their own vehicles to commit crimes. It is easier for them to conceal their identity by stealing a vehicle to use in the commission of those crimes. However, vehicle owners can take steps to help harden their vehicle defenses and make it an undesirable target for thieves. Criminals do not like to spend a lot of time stealing a vehicle and will look for a softer target to steal if there are barriers to a vehicle being stolen. Some recommended steps to harden a vehicle’s defense are:
- Always lock your car, close all windows and take the keys/fobs with you.
- Never leave your car running unattended, even for a minute.
- Shopping? Lock gifts and all valuables in the trunk or hidden from view.
- Park in well-lit areas, away from dumpsters or large vehicles that can serve as hiding places for thieves or carjackers. Don’t keep a spare set of keys/fobs in the car.
- Be aware of your surroundings and report suspicious behavior. If you see something, say something.
Law enforcement can’t be everywhere all the time but many vehicle thefts can be prevented by utilizing situational awareness and to park smart #ParkSmartAZ!
About the Arizona Automobile Theft Authority (AATA):
The AATA, funded through semi-annual assessments of over 400 insurance companies, functions as the lead organization in a statewide network of law enforcement, criminal justice and public awareness partners working together to combat auto theft crimes across Arizona. By focusing resources in these areas, the AATA and its statewide law enforcement partners are impacting the state’s declining auto theft rate.
To learn more visit www.azwatchyourcar.com.