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How to Protect Your Car, Truck or SUV from Break-ins

How to Protect Your Car, Truck or SUV from Break-ins

Many of us do not have the luxury of an enclosed parking garage and thus leaves our car sitting out in the open, vulnerable to the next car break. Throughout our lives we all travel and park in various parking lots, streets, garages, and obscure locations. It is important to follow these simple precautions to save yourself from the hassle and stress of thieves entering your vehicle and taking your belongings. Although Break-ins are not typically high stakes, they can cause a significant amount of pain, especially if you forget your wallet, purse, or other valuable object inside. Thieves who frequently break-into vehicles are typically not willing to carry out an in-depth heist on a vehicle as it requires significant planning. Rather they prowl certain areas and move to the next target or location if they find the vehicle or location to be too risky. This is where target hardening comes in and is essentially making your vehicle harder to break-into by making the risk of being caught greater, thus deterring the individual from breaking-in your vehicle.

First and Foremost, Lock Your Car, Truck or SUV

It may be as simple as pressing a button before you close the door or by pressing lock on your keys. It is a fact that many individuals, many who are juvenile, will go on car fishing expeditions where they check for unlocked vehicles along the streets, driveways or in parking lots. The key word here is unlocked cars, as these offenders do not want to attract attention. Attention leads to missed opportunities and increased chances of being caught or identified. Breaking a car window or using tools to break into a vehicle draws significantly more attention than simply opening an unlocked door. Though it is not going to stop all offenders from entering your vehicle, especially if they see something valuable inside, it is a great first step.

Park in a well-lit area

As mentioned in the above paragraph, these thieves to not want to draw attention to them and typically act in the cover of darkness. Make light your best friend by keeping a light source pointed at your vehicle as much as you can. A motion light may be a cost-effective way of alerting you and neighbors when it is triggered, thus deterring thieves from moving forward with this heist. If you do not have access to a outside light and can’t install one, try parking directly under a utility light where you can get the best coverage and visibility.

Don’t leave Valuable Items Inside – Especially if they are visible

As I have mentioned, these thieves do not want to bring any attention to themselves when looking for their next pay off. Typically, these thieves will quickly glance into a vehicle after seeing if it was locked to determine if anything is of valuable worth taken. Let’s say they see your shinny new purse, sunglasses or Rolex watch. They may decide that the risk is worth the reward and quickly smash the window, grab the valuable item and then take off with the goods. An enclosed trunk is significantly more difficult to break into, thus making it a safer place to leave valuables such as tools and work materials that you can’t bring into your house every day. A vehicle safe may be an excellent solution when leaving valuables inside your vehicle.

Display Security Cameras

Security cameras are a vital component of vehicle safety. However many vehicle owners miss one key component when installing their home cameras and that is by making them blend in and unnoticeable. That is the opposite of what you want to do as although having video surveillance of the break-in is nice, it didn’t really prevent it from happening in the first place and your still lost your valuables. It is recommended that your cameras are visible and known by displaying multiple stickers and signs notifying any potential thief that they are being watched and recorded. This further deters them from entering your property or vehicle and with the use of light, they may decide to move to another vehicle as they do not wish to take the risk.

Use a Car Alarm

No pulling an all nighter eating donuts and drinking coffee is not the alarm we are talking about. Yes that car alarm going off at 3 in the morning waking you up is very unpleasant, especially if it’s your neighbors car which has been going off every night for the last two weeks straight. As annoying as they sound they do provide a purpose and do an excellent job of deterring potential thieves. These alarms serve two main purposes, first they display a flashing light notifying any individual that the vehicle has a car alarm and will go off if someone attempts to open it. Second, they are really loud, and if one goes off while a thief is attempting to search through the vehicle, you will be sure to see them take off immediately in hopes that they are not caught. Although car alarms can be disabled, the profile of the average break in is to get a quick score and are not going to go through the tremendous trouble of disabling a vehicles alarm when they can just move to another vehicle with less risk.

Park in vigilant areas

At some point in our lives, we will have to park our vehicles away from our house, maybe it’s a sporting event, concert, cousin’s birthday party, or a wedding. Here you won’t be able to control the light sources or cameras available and will have to resort to other target hardening strategies to prevent break-ins. If possible, find a location near the most people, maybe choose a Valet service or park as close to the front desk or security office as possible. This will give you an upper hand if a thief prowls the area for vulnerable vehicles and since your doors will be locked with nothing valuable showing, they may choose to target another vehicle.

Tinted windows

Tinted windows are an important way of having potential offenders questioning whether someone is actually inside the vehicle. Sure, it is unlikely that someone will be inside their vehicle at 3 in the morning, but will help add to the risk factor when they are deciding if it is worth it to approach a vehicle for a potential break in. Tinted windows are more important for those large events or street parking where multiple cars are parked with people moving in and out at various times of the day and night. In this example there is a better chance of an individual actually being inside the vehicle, reducing the likelihood that a suspect will approach the vehicle to look inside.

Avoid Showing Vulnerabilities and Valuables on Social Media

This one gets me every time, someone post a picture of them putting money into a secret hid in their car or showing where they keep their valuables and you guessed it post a video or pictures online. Now this one may seem like an obvious one and well… it is. Don’t post pictures of you storing valuable items in your vehicle even if you take them out right after. Someone may want to find it bad enough and may decide to break your windows leaving you with the un-needed headache.

Lets Go Over Our To-Do-List of Prevention Measures of Preventing Vehicle Break-ins

Lets Go Over Our To-Do-List of Prevention Measures of Preventing Vehicle Break-ins

  1. Lock Your Car
  2. Park in a Well-lit Area
  3. Don’t leave Valuable Items Inside – Especially if They are Visible
  4. Display Security Cameras
  5. Use a Car Alarm
  6. Park in vigilant areas
  7. Tinted windows
  8. Avoid showing vulnerabilities and valuables on social media

Protecting Yourself from Identity theft After your Identification Was Compromised During a vehicle Break-In

Sometimes these offenders hit the jackpot and find a wallet with I.D’s, credit cards or even social security cards (yes some people keep their social security cards inside their wallets/purses) inside their victims cars. There is no doubt that when these criminals have your identification, your life can be tossed upside down with endless calls and paperwork attempting to keep your identity, property, and livelihood safe. The first thing you need to do is contact the local police, they may have what’s called a fraud packet with valuable information and numbers that you can use after a break in. In the meantime, here are some main precautions to take if your identification and bank/credit cards are stolen, as you await the arrival of the police.

  • Credit Report Agencies: Contact the major credit reporting bureaus where you request added precautions (known as freezing your credit) when anyone (hopefully just you) attempts to apply for various resources such as credit cards, bank loans, mortgages or even personal loans.
  • Contact banks: Contact the banks in which you are a member of and ask them to cancel the stolen card and have them issue a new one. If any checks were taken you will want to open up an entirely new account as the offenders will now have complete access to your hard-earned money. You can go to the Annual Credit Report for a free credit report.
  • Contact the Federal Trade Commission: The Federal Trade Commission helps monitor and identify the needs of Americans and identity theft is one of their top priorities.
  • Contact the Social Security Administration: Let them know that your identification has been compromised and that someone may have access to your information including your social security number. The Social Security Administration may issue you a new social security number and can place your information on alert which adds another layer of added protection.

What Happens if a Valuable Item was Taken During the Break-in

Keep Serial Numbers and Model Numbers Handy

Many of the expensive items have serial numbers associated with it and is an extremely important piece of information to share with law enforcement during the investigation. Many times these offenders do not intend to keep or use your item, rather wish to exchange it for cash where they can feed their habit or buy what they want. There are two main ways of exchanging these stolen items for money, through the black market and pawn shops. Most state law require pawn shops to document everyone who buys or sells an item. These pawn shops can be used as a way of identifying the offender when the police are able to identify the item through the serial and model numbers. Always keep larger ticket items packaging or receipt with the serial number somewhere safe as you never know when you may accidently leave it inside your vehicle and it is gone the next day.

Take a Picture

Take a picture of your jewelry, watch, artifact, or other priceless/unique item. Some items or jewelry pieces are one of a kind or no longer made and are nearly impossible to identify or describe without a picture. Having a model number to a one-of-a-kind pendant is important, but having a picture of that same pendant will far better serve the ability of law enforcement locating the stolen item. Walking into a pawn shop and looking at every ring for identifiers may be time consuming or fruitless but looking for an exact match using a picture will undoubtedly aid the investigation in your favor.

Why it is Important to Report the Incident to the Police

Reporting a break-in into your vehicle or vehicles serves two main purposes. First it documents that an offender obtained your identification or valuable goods when your vehicle was broken into and can be used if any money or fraudulent activity occurs in your bank/credit card accounts or credit bureaus after the incident. Second it helps the police to demonstrate a pattern by these offenders, increasing their ability to find the offenders and protect you and your community members from future offenses.

To-Do-List when Your Vehicle is Broken into and Items Were Taken:

  • Contact Credit Report Agencies (If Credit cards or I.D’s were taken).
  • Contact Banks (if bank cards or checks were taken).
  • Contact Social Security (if social security card or number was located in the vehicle).
  • Contact The Federal Trade Commission (If identity theft is a risk).
  • Locate Model and Serial Numbers (if valuable items were taken).
  • Take a Picture (prior to being stolen, preferably right when you buy/get it)
  • Report to the police (always document through the police).


In conclusion you can use these target hardening strategies to help prevent offenders from breaking into your vehicle. However, it is not a guaranteed and thus any item left in your vehicle will be vulnerable to break-ins. Make it a routine to double click your lock button to hear the noise or doing a mental checklist every time you leave your vehicle to know if you have grabbed your phone, wallet, purse or any other valuable item. Fortunately, many times these offenses result in minor losses such as change and a couple items left inside. But what if something important was taken, or your wallet/purse was inside with all of your identification? Then it is time to follow the above precautions and get Law Enforcement involved.

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By Branden

Branden is a Police Lieutenant who has investigated numerous crimes. He has written and executed multiple search warrants, conducted various protective sweeps, pat frisks and exit orders. He has been involved in numerous police vehicle chases, fights, disturbances, foot pursuits, suspect/hostage negotiations and felony stops. He is trained with an assortment of weapons. He has spoken with countless victims, witnesses and suspects and is using his experience to better protect our communities and loved ones by sharing his knowledge through his writings.

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