A Different Kind of Auto Theft
Joe was completely caught off guard on a Tuesday morning to discover the wheels on his SUV had been stolen. The vehicle was up on blocks in the driveway. Unfortunately, theft of wheels is becoming more common. Groups of criminals band together to get it done quickly under the cover of night. Replacing the wheels is expensive which creates demand in the resale market. Since tires and wheels have no identifying information on them, they are difficult to recognize as stolen. Thieves take advantage of this by stealing the wheels and then posting them for sale on buy, sell, trade groups.
Right Under your Nose
Thieves don’t want to risk being caught in a stolen vehicle that is easily traced to its owner. Instead, they now steal the parts right off the car in your own driveway and then sell them. In addition to wheels, tailgates and catalytic converters are often targeted. Like wheels, tailgates have good resale value. The catalytic converters have small amounts of precious metals in them which are sold for scrap. A car cannot pass vehicle inspection without the catalytic converter, making this theft a very expensive one for the vehicle owner.
Car batteries are also easily sold for scrap and are an often-stolen item. And it should be no surprise that license plates and luxury car emblems are some of the easiest items to remove from a parked vehicle. The license plates might be put on a different car that is being used for a crime. Victims of license plate theft have also seen excessive toll charges as someone using their plates takes advantage of their anonymity to leverage the toll roads. While the trend of using emblems as jewelry has thankfully passed, it is an easy crime of opportunity to pop one off of a vehicle just for fun.
An Ounce of Prevention
There are several steps you can take to prevent a scenario like Joe faced that morning.
- Park the vehicle in the garage. If this is not possible, park it as far up the driveway as possible. The most vulnerable vehicles are those parked in the street.
- Add wheel locks and make the wheel lock key hard to find. Wheel locks are a deterrent for some amateur thieves. However, the more experienced crews will simply get in the car and find the key in the glove box or console, unlock them and proceed.
- Mark your tires and rims. Write your name and address on the tires themselves and consider etching that information on the rims. This might not help you get them back, but will make it very difficult for the items to be resold without it being clear they are stolen.
- To prevent tailgate theft, back the vehicle in to the driveway with the tailgate up against the garage. This makes it much more challenging for a thief to access it and remove it quickly. You can also purchase an after-market tailgate bolting latch. Finally, etch the VIN of the truck into the metal of the tailgate.
- Part of the attraction of the catalytic converters is the ease of removing them from the vehicle. Add extra bolts or a cage enclosure to prevent easy access for thieves.
- Video cameras with analytics will notify you if someone comes on your driveway at night. Many of these thieves have stolen the parts even when there are cameras in plain view. Having alerts set for your cameras that will notify you of a trespasser allows you to call the police and hopefully catch them in the act. Good driveway lighting and motion detector lighting may also encourage these thieves to move right along.
When it’s Good to be Undesirable
Awareness of these threats allows you to be proactive in keeping your vehicles and their parts safe from theft. In addition, thieves are looking for the easiest target. Slowing down their progress or adding obstacles to their efforts will help keep them away. Make not just your home, but your street and neighborhood, undesirable to criminals with good lighting, security cameras and a security patrol.
We Can Help
Cultris Security Systems works with individuals and homeowners associations across Houston to create safe living environments and neighborhoods. Call us today at 281-506-8466 or visit us online.