It is an inconvenient fact of life. Auto thefts, as well as thefts and burglaries from automobiles, and automobile break-ins tend to spike during summertime’s sultry “dog days.” Of the 12 months of the year, July and August emerge as the prime time for auto thieves and burglars to work their mischief and mayhem on the second most valuable asset that citizens own, warns AAA Mid-Atlantic.
Montgomery County saw 845 auto thefts in 2014, compared to 867 motor vehicles thefts in 2013, a 2.5 percent yearly decrease. In the Germantown area, MCPD District Five, motor vehicle thefts decreased 29.1 percent last year, from 103 in 2013 to 73 in 2014.
In the first quarter of 2015, MCPD reported 992 vehicle-related thefts countywide, a very slight increase from the 990 reported thefts-from-vehicles in the first quarter of 2014, according to the MCPD quarterly crime report.
“These are crimes of opportunity. We’ve seen a significant increase in theft-from-autos this year over last year,” said Commander Gillespie of District Five in Germantown . “We have had more than 350 thefts-from-autos so far this year in just the 5th District. The trend has been that our suspects are going into vehicles that are mostly unlocked.”
Gillespie said that in June alone, District 5 in Germantown reported 82 separate theft-from-auto events. He said the theft-from-auto incidents were taking place throughout the heart of Germantown from Route 118 to Route 355, in apartment complexes and residential neighborhoods. “We’ve had a lot incidents over by Warring Station Road and the streets around there; we’ve had incidents in the Germantown Park area, and in the Waters Landing area,” he said.
In all of 2014, District 5 in Germantown reported 602 Vehicle-related thefts, a 20.4 percent increase over the 500 reported in 2013, according to the MCPD Annual Crime Report. While actual auto theft was down 29.1 percent to 73 in 2014, down from 103 in 2013.
Even so, three out of ten automobiles stolen in Virginia during 2014 were filched during summertime’s heat waves. That’s still the case, although stealing a vehicle is much more difficult today than ever before primarily because late model automobiles roll off the assembly line with sophisticated security systems and innovative anti-theft technology, the auto club says. In 2014, the average age of vehicles registered in the metro area was 9.5 years. Crooks target older cars because they are easier to steal and they can make quick cash at a chop shop, or furtively fence stolen parts and accessories worth their weight in gold.
“It is significant that despite owning vehicles equipped with state-of-the-art anti-theft technology, nearly half of auto theft cases involve driver error and in 6.7 percent of motor vehicle thefts the motorist makes the all too common mistake of leaving the keys in the ignition, research shows,” said John B. Townsend II, AAA Mid-Atlantic’s Manager of Public and Government Affairs. “Recent grand scale declines in grand theft auto rates in Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia can be attributed to increased public awareness, as well as programs deployed by law enforcement agencies and other agencies.”
What is more, “if your vehicle is parked in the driveway or on the street, do not leave a garage door opener inside your vehicle whereby a burglar can gain access to your valuables inside the garage and home,” authorities warn. Here is the upshot: area law enforcement officials say they tend to see an upsurge in “all criminal activity” during summer when law-abiding citizens are sunning by the pool or lounging around. Unfortunately for vehicle owners, auto thefts are no exception to the rule. Click here for videos chock full of AAA’s car theft prevention tips.
In fact, “living in urban and higher crime areas has an impact on your risk of being a victim of auto theft,” according to the auto insurance industry. Across the United States, a motor vehicle is stolen every 45 seconds, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
AAA Insurance provides seven additional tips to help motorists to prevent vehicle thefts and vehicle burglary:
Get your VIN etched. Having the VIN number of your vehicle etched in each piece of glass can be an effective theft deterrent as a thief would have to replace all the glass on the vehicle, cutting into profit margins. “Radios and wheel covers aren’t the only popular stolen vehicle parts thieves take. They want whatever sells, from the mandated labeled parts to those that aren’t,” explains NHTSA.
Always lock your vehicle with the windows closed. Even if you park your vehicle in a garage, this simple measure is added security.
Never leave belongings out in the open in your car because they could tempt thieves. “One of the most common types of theft is theft of valuables from your automobile,” advises the Metropolitan Police Department. “Theft from auto is strictly a crime of opportunity that can be prevented if you take away the opportunity.”
Never leave your keys in your vehicle or leave your vehicle running any time you are not in it.
Keep your vehicle in secure, well-lit areas. When possible, park in a locked garage. Also, consider installing a motion-activated floodlight that illuminates the place where your vehicle is parked.
Use anti-theft or automatic tracking devices. If your vehicle wasn’t equipped with an alarm or hidden tracking device when purchased, have one installed.
Remove spare keys from vehicle. Never hide a spare ignition key in or around your vehicle.