By Larry Carley c2009
Auto theft is a cancer on modern society. In the old days, they hung horse thieves. Nowadays, car thieves serve little time behind bars, even if they are caught (which few are). Apparently, society does not consider auto theft a serious crime. It's glorified in video games and movies, and many people think it is a nonviolent crime. Tell that to anybody who has been carjacked. I say bring back the noose!
Almost a million vehicles are stolen every year in the U.S. (956,846 in 2008 according to the FBI). Yet only about 12% of these auto thefts result in an arrest. The cops can catch speeders and people who turn right on red without coming to a complete stop, but they don't have much luck catching car thieves.
But there is hope. Today's anti-theft systems with coded smart keys make it very difficult if not impossible to hot wire a car. So car thieves simply look for older vehicles that do not have as sophisticated anti-theft systems. Or, they look for vehicles where the owner has left the keys in the car. Or, they stick a gun in your face and carjack you at a stop light or filling station. Or, they cruise around in a tow truck with their shopping list and simply snatch your vehicle right out of your driveway or a parking lot often in broad daylight.
We all pay for auto theft with higher insurance premiums (though auto premiums have supposedly gone down a bit in recent years). We also pay with more complicated keyless entry systems and smart anti-theft systems that are designed to foil thieves, but can cause starting problems and can be very difficult and expensive to diagnose and repair.
The only way to prevent auto theft is to drive a car nobody wants to steal. Maybe that's why I have never had a car stolen. No expensive luxury cars or SUVs. No expensive sports cars, performance cars or classic muscle cars. No cars with hard-to-find or expensive parts that make them valuable to car thieves. No vehicles that corrupt officials in Eastern European, Asian or South American countries would covet or want to drive as a status symbol. That doesn't leave many choices. I think maybe a 10-year-old used Kia with some body damage might be theft-proof.
The only foolproof way to prevent car theft is to not own a car. But since a vehicle of some sort is an absolute necessity for most people who live in this country, that is not an option for most of us.
A locked garage offers reasonably good protection, but once you leave your premises you are vulnerable to having your car stolen or carjacked.
The good news is there are ways to fight back. I received a press release from LoJack, a company that makes radio transmitters that allow police to track and locate stolen vehicles. The transmitter is activated if your vehicle is stolen, and sends out a homing beacon that can lead police to its location. It works almost anywhere, including inside a concrete garage or a steel shipping container. It's not cheap, and it must be professionally installed. But once in place, a LoJack transmitter can provide a means of tracking and catching car thieves.
A LoJack device will NOT prevent your vehicle from being stolen, but it can help the police recover your vehicle and hopefully catch those who stole it. I say "may help" the police catch the crooks because no anti-theft device is totally foolproof. A smart car thief may park your stolen vehicle somewhere for a cooling off period to see if the cops are tracking it. Or, they may use a radio scanner to check your vehicle for a beacon signal coming from the hidden LoJack transmitter. Or, they may try to find and remove or disable the LoJack transmitter if they think your vehicle has one. Yet in spite of such efforts, LoJack has racked up some success stories. Here are some of the highlights for 2009 from their press release:
NOTE: I am not endorsing LoJack as a theft recovery device, nor am I receiving anything from LoJack for posting their press release. I thought this was good information worth sharing with my readers.
U.S.: LoJack System Helps Police Bust Massive Global Theft Ring
A California-based Lexus dealer who had installed LoJack units on the cars in his lot notified police that a vehicle was fraudulently purchased from his dealership. Authorities activated the transponder in the vehicle and within three hours located the car inside a cargo container at the Port of Los Angeles. The detectives also recovered a second container with two more vehicles and determined that two additional containers had already left the country. The two containers at sea were recalled and four more high-end vehicles worth approximately $400,000 were recovered. After a lengthy investigation, authorities found eight vehicles, made five arrests and have several warrants pending. Most important, they managed to dismantle a theft ring that had been responsible for the theft of 67 high-end vehicles worth approximately $4.5 million as well as 300 other vehicles stolen from across the country over a three-year period.
South Africa: LoJack and "Wolf" Solve Carjacking
At a quiet intersection, four armed men opened fire on a woman driver and her male passenger in a Toyota Hilux, seriously injuring the driver and killing the passenger. The men pulled the occupants out of the vehicle and drove off. Within minutes of activation, authorities tracked the vehicle to a dark, secluded area where they found the car parked outside a house. Seeing the authorities arrive, the suspects in the vehicle fled on foot. The authorities blocked off the area and called in the dog unit where Wolf, a highly trained German shepherd, picked up a scent and quickly found one of the suspects hiding under a bush a few hundred yards away from the vehicle. The LoJack technology (with some help from Wolf) led to an arrest.
Spain: LoJack System on Stolen Vehicle Helps Police Bust Major Theft Ring
A Spanish rental car company installed a recovery system on its fleet. When a customer who had rented a vehicle for two months failed to return the car at the end of the agreement, the rental company called authorities to activate the system. Using LoJack's Pan-European network, authorities tracked the vehicle to a warehouse in Belgium where 12 other cars were discovered. The vehicles were all part of a massive theft operation involving more than 200 rental cars stolen from eastern Spain.
Italy: LoJack Helps Police Crack Cross-Border Theft Case
A BMW X5 was stolen in Spain, where wily thieves thought they would outwit police by removing the Spanish license plates and replacing them with Ukrainian tags. Unbeknownst to the thieves, the vehicle was equipped with LoJack, and although the vehicle was driven 1,500 kilometers from Spain to Italy, the vehicles was tracked and recovered within hours after the vehicle entered Italy.
Canada: LoJack SCI Helps Recover $2 Million Load of Merchandise
LoJack Supply Chain Integrity's tracking and monitoring solution helped Canada's Peel Regional Theft Task Force recover a stolen load of merchandise worth an estimated $2 million. Seven members of a known cargo theft gang who hijacked the driver of the tractor-trailer and were responsible for several other cargo theft incidents in Ontario were arrested in this case.
Argentina: LoJack Recovers Stolen Vehicle and 18 ATVs in Less than Three Hours
LoJack recovered a Mercedes-Benz vehicle and tractor-trailer in less than three hours. Thieves had stolen the vehicle and were on the run with the trailer, which was loaded with 18 Yamaha ATVs. Soon after, police found the vehicle and trailer with its contents perfectly intact.
Mexico: Recovery Leads to Chop Shop Bust and Resolution of Carjacking Case
A 2003 Ford-250 was stolen out of California and tracked to a repair shop in Tijuana, Mexico. There, authorities found seven other vehicles, six of which were stolen in the U.S. and then taken across the border. The vehicles were in various stages of being dissembled. One of the vehicles was a 1998 Dodge station wagon that had been used in a U.S. carjacking. The chop shop was dismantled and the shop owner was arrested.
UK: Recovery System Helps Find Stolen Generator…Hidden Behind Metal Sheets
A generator worth 4,500 pounds Sterling was stolen in London and tracked to a remote and isolated builder's yard across the River Thames. It was well hidden behind a building under heavy metal sheets, not visible to the eye. The Radio Frequency signal emanating from the generator was able to penetrate the metal, which enabled authorities to recover it.
Canada: Stolen John Deere Leads to Recovery of $500k in Construction Equipment
A John Deere tractor was stolen from a construction site in Quebec. Authorities followed the signal and located the tractor at a farm in a remote location 40 kilometers from the construction site. Along with the tractor, they recovered three other pieces of construction equipment including a Mack truck and two asphalt pavers valued at nearly $500,000.
France: Trucks Parts, Chop Shop and International Metal Theft Ring
A Mercedes truck was stolen and within three and a half hours police tracked the signal to a warehouse where they found the truck. Inside the warehouse, authorities found the parts of seven Mercedes trucks and a Nissan Patrol. The parts were carefully cut and sorted and placed in boxes for shipment to Africa. As a result of this recovery, police were able to dismantle a major international scrap metal ring.