Car thieves don’t always steal the whole car, sometimes it’s only a part. My son drove a Ford Probe when he was attending Lake Highlands High School. One night, the car was parked on the street in front of our house and it was broken into. I did not discover it until the next morning when I saw wires poking out from the dash where the stereo had been. It was a cheap stereo to begin with but I was angry someone had taken it and had to confront feeling violated.
There are a couple of interesting items thieves have focused on over the past year including:
- Third-row seats from SUVs
- Pickup truck tailgates
- Catalytic converters
Third-Row Seats: There was an explosion of stealing third-row seats in the Park Cities area last summer. In the first week of August 2012 alone, 18 cars were broken into and the third-row seats were removed only to be sold on-line, to shops or at swap meets. Police believe they caught the primary culprits a few weeks later, but this item is stolen on a regular basis. While the seats cost more than $1,500 to replace from the car dealer, they are typically sold for several hundred dollars on-line or elsewhere. The only question is, are these stolen seats?
Police advised owners do four things to help prevent this from happening:
- If the seat is not being used, remove it from the vehicle and store it in the garage. If there’s no third-row seat, then thieves move on.
- If you’re using the third-row seat, secure it with a cable lock similar to a bicycle lock. While these can be cut, they may slow the thief enough and cause them to look for easier pickings elsewhere.
- Borrow the engraving pen from your local police department and etch the vehicle’s VIN number onto the seat. This can aid in the recovery of your seat if it’s stolen.
- Park the car in the garage if you have room. If you don’t, try parking it in your driveway. This helps, but even SUV’s parked in driveways were broken into and seats removed.
Pickup Truck Tailgates: Since 2011, Dallas Police received between 250 and 260 reports of pickup tailgates being stolen annually. Garland Police received reports of 90 tailgates being stolen in 2012 and discovered a cache of 26 stolen tailgates in late February of this year.
It takes less than 30 seconds to steal a pickup truck’s tailgate. Thieves sell them on Craigslist and other online sites, as well as to scrap yards for a few hundred dollars. Replacing a tailgate can run anywhere from $1,000 to $4,000 depending on if the tailgate has a rearview camera installed or not.
To help prevent a tailgate from being stolen, local police agencies suggest:
- Lock the tailgate. If it didn’t come with a lock, buy one.
- Etch the VIN number or some other identifying mark on the tailgate. Most tailgates don’t have the VIN stamped on them like other body parts (doors, etc.) do.
Catalytic Converters: I received a call from one of my clients who lives in the Lake Highlands area of Dallas last week. He’d parked his Toyota 4Runner on the street in front of his house one evening, got into it the next morning to head off to work and knew something was wrong the moment he started the car. It sounded very different. He got out of the SUV and looked under the back end then called me.
During the night, someone crawled under the back of his 4Runner with a saw and cut the catalytic converter off. Thieves then sell them to recyclers who are interested in the metals some catalytic converters contain such as platinum. My client wondered if this was covered. Since that vehicle has comprehensive coverage, it is and that helps when the cost to replace a catalytic converter runs about $2,000.
No one can prevent everything from happening, but there are four steps vehicle owners can take to help reduce their likelihood of being the next victim.
- Clean out some room in the garage and park your vehicles in there. This is the number one step to help deter a thief.
- If your truck won’t fit or there’s no room in the garage, borrow the etching pen from your local police department and put your vehicle’s VIN number on the catalytic converter, a truck’s tailgate, third-row seat, etc.
- Install locks where applicable.
- Report the crime. Police in Dallas, Garland and Rockwall believe that most tailgate thefts go unreported. Reporting it helps with the claims and recovery process.
- Keep comprehensive coverage on your vehicles, even if they’re paid off. Comprehensive coverage costs a few dollars per month per vehicle and covers the thefts described here.
Knowing and acting on these steps helps lower your chance of being a victim of one of these thefts and others too. Have you had anything stolen from your car? Share your comments, questions, suggestions and experiences with me on our Google + and Facebook pages or in the comments section of our blog. We’ll all learn something from each other.