It seems obvious to most people: You shouldn’t leave a backpack with your laptop in the front seat of your car and expect it to be there when you get back.
While most of us are careful, we sometimes get lazy, or we assume would-be thieves know the backpack contains only gym clothes, not a laptop. Wrong.
As co-owner of Auto Glass Express, I hear so many sad stories of preventable theft from customers every day that I thought I’d share some tips.
1) Any amount of time is too long when there’s something of value in your car.
People think, “I’ll just be a minute.” My neighbor went to pick up her daughter from camp – middle of the day – in Emeryville. She was gone from her car a total of about 3 minutes. But it was long enough for someone to notice she didn’t take anything with her, and that her wallet was most likely in the car — which it was, along with a bunch of gift cards and other valuable items. The thief smashed her passenger door glass, grabbed her purse and ran. It didn’t matter that a number of other parents were around to see the break-in. The thief knew no one would chase him down the street.
2) Any bag in sight is tempting to a thief.
A bag with stinky gym clothes cost one customer the expensive back glass on her Prius. A veterinarian lost her dirty scrubs in a break-in. Just because there isn’t anything of value in your bag doesn’t make it less tempting to a thief.
3) Don’t put anything in your trunk right before your final destination.
This is the one that pains me the most. People will go out of their way to lock their purses and bags in the trunk of their cars right before going on a hike or going out at night. Even if you don’t see anyone around (the suspicious look behind you doesn’t help), you should assume that someone with nefarious intentions saw you stash that purse in the trunk. Some of the most common places I hear of people getting broken into are at the Berkeley Marina, Tilden Park, and other East Bay Regional Parks.
4) Jacks and headphone wires = an electronic device lives nearby
Whenever I get into a friend’s car and I see white wires dangling all over the place, I can’t help dishing out unsolicited advice about how these should be hidden from view. Even though you were careful not to leave anything of value in your car, a thief hopes you stashed the iPod that plugs into the stereo in your glove compartment.
5) Consider installing a car alarm
Though car alarms aren’t necessarily a deterrent, customers sometimes tell us they think their car alarm scared off the thief from taking anything from their vehicle. If your car has a remote lock, it doesn’t necessarily mean it is equipped with an alarm. Consider getting an alarm installed that has a blinking light indicating your car is alarmed.
6) Keep the cargo cover OPEN and your trunk empty.
If you drive a hatchback or station wagon, keep your cargo cover OPEN, not closed. One of the most commonly broken windows is the little quarter glasses on hatchbacks. Thieves break the little windows, pull down the rear seat to see what’s in the trunk, and if they think there’s something valuable in the cargo area, often another window is broken so they can get at those items. Best bet is to leave your cargo area empty and leave the cover open. Don’t use your car for storage.
As a South Berkeley resident who has experienced her share of break-ins, I know that no matter how careful you are you can still be a victim of car vandalism. According to a Berkeley Police Captain speaking at a neighborhood meeting, the pattern of break-ins closely follows the release of repeat offenders who are looking for their next high. Like parking tickets, auto break-ins are unfortunately a fact of life for car owners in the Bay Area. But taking some simple precautions greatly reduces your risk of being the next victim of car vandalism.