in FS, Home & Garden

Drama in Real Life: Burgled Again

Four years ago — soon after we moved into this house — somebody broke into my car.

We only have room for one vehicle in the garage, so I park on the street. One foggy February morning, I walked to my Ford Focus as usual, opened the back door, and put my stuff on the seat. But when I slammed the door closed, a shower of glass fell to the ground. Somebody had smashed the driver’s window.

I didn’t have time to mess around with the broken window, so I swept the glass from the seat and drove to work. It was cold. On the way, I tried to inventory the damage. Only the one window was broken. All of my CDs still seemed to be there (who would want to steal music from the 1920s?), but my cell phone was gone. (The stupid thief had left the charger to which it had been connected.) That was all that was missing from the front seat.

When I got to work, I searched the rest of the car. Nothing in the back seat was taken, which was good, because I had both my personal and my business checkbook sitting in plain view, with checks made out to both accounts from various sources. And I had my business credit card there, too. (Yes, this was very stupid of me.) But it was when I checked the trunk that my heart sank. My bag of camera equipment was gone. I was missing a small fortune in lenses and filters and more. I cursed my carelessness.

I reported the theft to the police, and they took down a report. The woman I talked to was sympathetic, but not hopeful. “There’s been a rash of car burglaries in your neighborhood,” she said.

“Is there anything I can do?” I asked. “Is it better to park in the driveway instead of on the street? Should I lock the door? Keep it unlocked?”

“It doesn’t matter,” she said. “A determined burglar is going to get in. If it were my car, I’d leave it unlocked, because then at least there’s less chance of having the window smashed.”

Ever since, I’ve left my car unlocked when I park it on the street — which is every day. And I never leave anything of value in the vehicle anymore.

A month later, a friend found my camera equipment. The burglar had dumped it in the bushes by the corner of our property. He had apparently gone through the bag looking for valuables, not realizing the camera gear itself was worth a couple thousand bucks. After a little clean up, the equipment was fine.

I was fortunate my foolishness did not cost me more.

The next year, a thief broke into Kris’ car. Maybe it was a different thief. Maybe not. Fortunately, Kris doesn’t keep anything of value in her vehicle. In fact, there’s rarely anything in the cabin at all.

When the burglar’s search came up empty, he popped the trunk. That’s when he found the jackpot: jumper cables. That’s right — a burglar ransacked Kris’ car, and all he took was jumper cables. I can’t even begin to imagine what was going through this his head.

Fast forward a couple of years. I’ve been parking on the street without incident since that first act of vandalism. I keep my doors unlocked and there are no valuables in the car — unless you count my CDs of music from the 1920s.

Today I went out to run some errands. When I got into the car, I was surprised to find my water bottle on the floor. “That’s odd,” I thought. And then I realized…I’d been burgled again. I performed a quick survey. Trash on the floor of the back seat? Check. CDs of music from the 1920s? Check. Everything in the glove compartment? Check. iPod transmitter? Uh, no. Parking-meter change? Also gone.

Sometime during the past few days, a thief — possibly the same thief as three years ago — broke into my car and stole an iPod transmitter and a handful of quarters, nickels, and dimes. He didn’t steal anything else because there was nothing else to steal. He didn’t smash my window because the door was left unlocked. All he got was a cheap electronic device and enough change for a two-liter bottle of soda. I hope he’s having a good time.

Sometimes when bad things happen to me, I get tense. I get frustrated. But for some reason, none of these thefts bother me. Maybe it’s because the burglar hasn’t actually absconded with much: just a cell phone, an iPod transmitter, some jumper cables, and a handful of change. Still, it would be nice if I didn’t have to worry about thieves breaking into my car…

Do you have any suggestions? Have you ever experienced a similar problem? Is it even worth my time to take further precautions? Have I exhausted the statistical likelihood that a burglar will break into our cars again? (I mean three times in four years — come on! Go pick on somebody else.)

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  1. A car alarm although useless most of the time may prove somewhat useful in your scenario. Most inexperienced car thieves try to avoid cars armed with a car alarm because they don’t know how to disable it without the alarm going off.

    Although normally it just annoys the neighbors but if its happening often enough, a small investment in a car alarm may save you headaches of anything missing in the future. Better to be safe than sorry. Someone may stoop as low as stealing the car even if its not fancy, especially if the door is already unlocked.

  2. I think it’s great that you’ve learnt the lesson that is taught to us since childhood in India – never leave valuables visible in your car when it’s unattended.

    My wife has this annoying habit of leaving her purse in plain view on the car seat in the back and a quick glance can confirm that the keys to the car, house are in there – and probably her credit cards too (which they certainly are).

    In your case though, other than the car alarm, there’s not much you can really do. You could go in for a motion-sensitive camera equipment which will record who the burglar is (so that the police department can take some action – which seems doubtful considering that they seem to have done nothing so far). And oh yes, you do deserve congratulations on saving a window.

  3. Motion lights solved the problem for us. I center the sensor on one of the two cars I park on the street and if someone comes within ten feet of either vehicle it turns on. It has saved us from broken windows and slashed tires countless times in our neighborhood when houses on either side of ours have been hit.

  4. One of the things my dad always preached to my brother and I when we started driving was to never, ever leave anything in plain view. This goes for valuables and non-valuables. He especially hated when we left change in the cupholder, and I have to admit that he has a good point (it seems to apply in your situation here, J.D.) – “A thief is going to have no qualms about breaking your $300 window just go get 30 cents change if that gets him closer to some food for the night.”

    Has this changed my habits about leaving my iPod transmitter and cupholder change in view? Unfortunately, no. Hopefully I can learn from your unfortunate incidents as well.

  5. When I had a car, I left it unlocked because the locks stopped working winters, and then at all. Nothing of value was left in there.

    One day I got in and my ashtray was on the passenger side floor. Strange…A quick survey found my trunk key (labeled ford by the dealership) on the drivers side door.

    They had tried to steal my car! Alas, the trunk and ignition have different keys.

  6. If not keeping valuables in the car, a car alarm may be an expensive approach. Instead, try a fake car alarm (Amazon is one site that sells them). They are usually about $10 and just consist of a small LED windshield attachment and decal sticker.

  7. As a Sheriff’s Deputy, I recommend locking the doors. Someone could get in an unlocked car and wait for YOU to get in and rob,hurt you or worse. People are constantly being kidnapped and forced to go to ATM machines and withdraw money for the bad guys. If you can park your can in the driveway and have a motion sensor flood light pointed at it, that should help. Parked in the street, you are making it easier to be a victim. Might be time for a neighborhood watch.

  8. I’d probably write a note to the thief and permanently post it on the dashboard…something about how your wireless camera is currently videotaping them 😉

  9. It sounds like someone who lives close by. Maybe a kid. If I were you, I’d install some kind of camera to try and catch the guy. He’s not going to just stop if he’s been at it this long. Criminal behavior tends to escalate. Keep the doors and windows to your house locked. That’s the next step for him.

  10. In addition to a car alarm, I don’t leave a single thing in my car. Not even an empty can, water bottle or piece of trash. If someone looks in my spotless car it’s very obvious there is nothing of value in there.

    My girlfriend I think has the opposite theory. Her car is so cluttered with crap I don’t think anyone would want to dig through it on the off chance there is something valuable.

  11. You need to be careful about appearances. Years ago someone smashed our window and broke into our car after seeing what they thought was a purse. Actually it was a diaper bag. We found the contents along the side of the road. Also they took a faux leather bound zipper notebook which was the car’s owner’s manual.

  12. I have had pretty horrific luck with my car. It has been broken into 3 times (I do lock the doors…read on.) and stolen once. Only time anything of value was taken was my ipod which they ripped my glovebox out of the dash for. After being stolen the major damage was when they popped the entire steering column open so they could get at the cylinder and wiring easier.

    Basically I have a similar view in regards to my car. Nothing of major value in it, but locked with a car alarm (with immobilizer) just makes it really not tempting to thieves. I have had alot of success with the enormous blue led I had installed with the immobilizer. Basically saves the thief time by announcing the car is gonna be a pain.

    Just remember the “outrun your friends, not the bear” rule. If your car is clearly the harder option, it probably wont get hit.

  13. Don’t leave anything in plain sight in your car. Not even spare change. As my own experience has taught me, my idea of what is “valuable” is quite different from that of a thief. Even litter is attractive to a car thief, because it suggests that the owner is careless or may be concealing something beneath all the wrappers.

    If you don’t have an alarm system, you should lock your car doors. I understand the argument that windows are more expensive to replace. But it’s quite easy to see an unlocked door from the outside.

  14. I don’t leave *anything* in view. I had a GPS unit stolen from my office parking lot, and it was the only time I had gotten lazy and left anything out.

    I look at it as I don’t leave anything in the car I can afford to lose. The GPS unit sits in my garage and only gets taken out with me when I need it. My ipod is like my phone, and goes with me everywhere. I have cables, chargers, and a dashboard mount they are welcome too.

    I second the thought of parking on your drive, get some security lights. Be a harder target than the next guy, it’s enough for most thieves to move on.

  15. My car was broken into once. All that was stolen was some change and some arcade tokens. Sadly, they did break my window. I got one off a junkyard car for like $20 though.

  16. I’m with the sheriff commenter on leaving doors locked, but I was raised paranoid. Sometimes I am tempted to leave my purse in the car while I run into a store/school just for a second, but a friend of mine had her purse stolen in that scenario at her daughter’s preschool. We realized the thief probably cased the school and watched for moms who head in without a purse, knowing they would be gone at least 5 minutes.

  17. Here in the UK leaving a phone in your car in plain view means you will get broken into even if your car is parked in the middle of a crowd of people or in some cities even when you are waiting at a red traffic light. It is far to easy to shash a window, grab the phone and run.

    If a thief THINKS these is something of value in the car, they WILL break in.

    So what a lot of people have started doing when leaving their cars in the rougher parts of town is to not only empty the car of anything of value, but leave the glovebox open etc so that you can see that a) the car is empty and b) the owner has made a point of showing you that the car is empty. The thiefs tend to just move on.

    It’s a sad state of affairs but it is the world we live in.

  18. Is that “one-car garage” or “two-car garage, but with so much stuff in it there’s only room for one car”? There’s a solution for the second. Parking in the driveway and getting a motion-detector light is probably the best approach for the first. It’s worked for me so far, knock wood (no garage).

  19. Our car was broken into three times one winter. The police told us there was nothing we could do — they even said car alarms are pretty useless. Like you, we now leave our car unlocked (the burglers were breaking the lock, and those are expensive to fix). I actually felt a little triumph when I noticed a few months ago that someone had gone through our car again. “HA! YOu didn’t get anything! I win!” were my thoughts.

  20. I know how frustrating and awful it feels to have your car broken into. My husband and I were in the middle of a move and staying at a motel. A thief saw what appeared to be my purse on the front seat of my husband’s car and broke his window to steal it. All they got for their troubles was some priceless (to me) pictures and a book I was reading. I was sad that I had not been more careful and brought the bag in with me. I really wish they had abandoned the bag when they saw nothing was in it, I would have loved to have the pictures back.

  21. My car has been broken into several times, though vandalized is probably more correct. In the course of three years I replaced my windshield and driver side window at least four times. I was from NY and went to grad school in MA, so my car had NY plates which, naturally, means I am a Yankees fan (actually these actions converted me into a Yankees fan, since if I am going to pay the price I may as well deserve it). Every time the Yankees and Red Sox would play each other, my car would become a target. I ended up staying in MA and converting my plates over after finishing school, which is the only solution the police could come up with since it didn’t matter how far from campus my car was.

  22. Although I understand your leaving the car unlocked, that assists to your car being stolen. One of the first questions the insurance company will ask is whether you locked your car. By saying “no”, it is a flag for insurance abuse. Although you’ll likely collect regardless, that simple act can prolong things.

    For what else you can do, you are already doing it: nothing in plain sight, nothing of value in any event, and leaving it unlocked to save window replacement value[1]. The only other possibility is a car alarm. I suggest a hybrid of that.

    Although the sounding of a car alarm, I agree, is essentially an urban cricket and ignored, thieves will often pass up alarmed cars for easier pickings. The main deterrant is the blinking red light on the driver’s door many/most alarms have. They actually sell little LEDs you can attach to your dash or door to simulate that (cannot remember where but sure an automotive parts store will have them). That would be my only other suggestion.

    [1] A while back when I lived in NYC people often put up signs on their dash saying “Nothing of Value in Car”. One day I was walking by one of those cars, saw the front driver’s door window had been smashed and, written below the “nothing of value” message the burglar had added “Just Checking”.

  23. I never lock my car – I grew up in a rural area where we actually left the keys in the ignition… I have at least broken myself if that habit! I also don’t leave anything in the car other than canvas grocery bags. I was burgled once: they stole a flashlight, probably meaning I assisted in other thefts that night.

    My co-worker always locks her car, since she’s been told that if something is stolen or broken, the insurance company can say it was your fault for not locking up.

  24. Get a motion-detecting light and park your car near it. And yeah, maybe writing a letter to the thief would be good 🙂

    My husband’s car has been broken into a few times. They never took much, but tore up the glove box and caused other damage. Jerks.

  25. I live in Queens, NY and within one year, the same small vent glass has been broken into. The first time they took my tire pressure pump (which was given to me for free anyway), and the second time they didn’t even take one thing. This may be because I have an alarm. I park on the street because I have to, living in an apartment with no parking space. I can’t believe you leave your door unlocked!! It’s tempting for me to follow suit since the glass has cost me $500 to date, but I sometimes have to park blocks away from my home, and I don’t see it for days at a time (I use public transit normally). Still, this is a bit better than paying $200/month for a parking space in someone’s garage.

    I’m with RC’s girlfriend though, that keeping my car a mess somewhat deters thiefs, but my car is a Honda. Since the first break in I keep a package of garbage bags and some Gorilla tape in my car, in case I need to patch up the window.

    I guess I really don’t have real advice, just empathy.

  26. Why on earth are you keeping valuable items in your car? Where everything inside of it is easily accessible to thieves?

    I keep absolutely nothing in my car (not even CDS), and it’s paid off. Just a few nights ago every car on my block was broken into… except mine.

    Just don’t put valuable items in your car, thieves won’t have any motivation to break in and if they do you won’t lose anything of value (except maybe the car window).

  27. I don’t lock my doors, and don’t keep anything of value in my car. I really don’t feel like replacing a $600+ convertible top when a thief decides its quieter to slash the top than smash a window. I’ve only had one incident of theft where they stole 4 quarts of oil. I learned my lesson that time. I know the car has been searched a few times though (glovebox open in the morning), but that has pretty much stopped since I’ve moved apartments. I’ll take my chances with someone waiting for me in my car, because I’ll more than likely see them (only 2 seats).

    Clean out your garage if you have a 2 car garage.

  28. My driver door is for some reason not always locking, and I can’t tell because the push-down button stays down. I was parked overnight at a friend’s house, came back to my–I might add, filthy and full of junk–car and it took me a minute but I realized it had been rifled thru. Only things of “value” in the car were 2 baskets of dirty clothes and some kitchen appliances (I was moving at the time), none of which were taken. And they stuck their hand into a sticky cup holder that had 5 pennies in it–didn’t get any pennies, but we got a nice fingerprint from the jerk closing the door after sticking his hand in dried coca-cola.

    I recommend the “leave nothing of value and a dirty car” approach.

  29. That’s amazing. Do you live in a really high crime area? Where I’m from, I can’t even imagine that happening.

  30. I used to drive a Jeep TJ, since you can just unzip the windows on it I never locked it. However, I also kept absolutely nothing of value in the vehicle. The only thing a potential thief might have been interested in was my emergency kit.

    I do agree with the poster about the insurance claim. If you don’t lock your car and something is taken they are likely not going to cover your loss.

  31. several years ago, when Iived in a somewhat shady area of Chicago, my car was broken into once and my windows were vandilized (broken) 2 other times.

    The following worked for me:

    1. I bought a “fake” car alarm. It was a little battery powered red flashing light that I put on my dashboard. It cost under $10.

    2. I started parking my car under a bright streetlight.

    Good luck

  32. I lived in San Francisco for 10 years, where you pretty much can’t avoid getting your car broken into, and the vast majority of thieves are crack addicts. Because of this, you can never ever have anything lying out. A few nickels or an old newspaper will encourage them to break in and see what else is there. Make absolutely sure you don’t have anything lying out, no matter what the value.

    Sorry about that.

  33. “Everything in the glove compartment? Check.”

    – Make sure you are covered for identity theft. They just took info on you – if you store your insurance policy in your glove compartment.

  34. Several years ago my husband’s car was broken into. They smashed out the front passenger window to gain access. They left behind the expensive sunglasses and the cup full of change, instead choosing to steal a package of Tic-Tacs.

  35. First, get a car alarm. It won’t prevent sophisticated thieves, but it will prevent these annoying break-ins you’re seeing. Also make sure that the alarm LED, or sticker is visible. It may make the difference between your car or the next one. Second, and park in open places where a thief will stand out.

  36. The motion light works the best. I forgot to lock my car one night when the car was parked in the driveway. The next morning my neighbors woke me up to tell me their car had been broken into and a gym bag was stolen. I checked my car and sure enough, someone had left the door open after looking inside. Best I could figure, they opened the door and triggered the motion light to come on. Luckily, only my neighbor’s car was victimized and mine was left alone.

    PS- depending on your state and insurance company, theft claims stay on your insurance record for three years!! I learned that the hard way when I made a $600 claim for stolen golf clubs. I bought a house a few months later and found out I was not eligible for homeowners insurance because of the claim. I had to resort to cheapo state sponsored insurance which basically covered nothing. Not at all worth the 600 bucks I got for the clubs.

  37. Please be sure that the your garage door opener is not in your car if you are leaving it on the street unlocked. I assume you would have one in each of your cars even though only one car fits in the garage.

  38. Sometimes, even just a flashing LED embedded in the dash or console is enough to drive away a thief since that is the common outward sign of an armed alarm system. It’s cheap to install and won’t annoy your neighbors since there’s no actual alarm to trip. It won’t stop all the thieves, but it may drive them off.

  39. I had never considered keeping the door unlocked to save the window. I never leave anything of value in my car – except sometimes my iPod, which I’m trying to do less often.

  40. Sorry, I have to agree with Jason above – move. The only person I know who has had their car broken into that often lives in a bad part of Detroit.

    Where I live, I don’t feel nervous leaving my car unlocked (although I try to remember to lock it), and I have kept things in the back in plain view for days. (Not valuables, but I can imagine them being tempting to a thief)

    One of the first things I did when looking for a new place to live was check out crime statistics. I picked a neighborhood that was in a location I liked and had below average burglary rates. It was actually cheaper than living in some of the worse areas!

    Of course, moving is a bit extreme. Staying where you are I would recommend parking in the driveway and installing security lights. If you do it yourself, it isn’t expensive at all, and you can learn a bit about electrical work. Also, don’t store leave bags or containers in the car – the thief won’t know it has nothing good in it. You could also install a gate if you’re really worried – obviously it won’t stop them, but I would imagine they would rather pick a car where they don’t have to jump a gate for a quick getaway.

  41. Leaving nothing in the car at all is a good start but isn’t foolproof. A phoney alarm light on the door or dash is a good idea and (from my experience) just as useful as a real alarm, no one pays a lick of attention to a real alarm anyways so it’s the deterrent factor that you’re looking for.

    Most car burglaries are just bored kids trying to prove (to themselves or others) how hard they are, especially in suburban areas. They learn how a little piece of porcelain (I think it’s porcelain or else ceramic) from a sparkplug can shatter a car window almost silently if done correctly and think they’re gangsta, yo. What they actually get out of the robbery is largely irrelevant, it’s more about the prestige of committing the crime itself. I’m shocked that your camera stuff turned up, pawn shops buy camera’s. They buy CD’s too (or used to maybe not now in the MP3 age) and if you’re 15 making $5-10 at the pawn shop is enough to buy a 40oz of malt liquor and a joint which automatically makes you the coolest guy in your group of ne’er do wells.

    At least that’s how things work around here.

    As a side note, if you’re a parent and find a smashed up sparkplug, ask questions.

  42. Since your wife has a car and parks in the garage and you live in Oregon, why not trade the car in for a scooter, or even bike?

    Another option is keep a rabid animal in your car as a trap 🙂

  43. Why not leave a nice note and $5.00 in an envelope–thank the thief for allowing you the opportunity to help him. Sometimes we get more of what we resist. I know this sounds a little crazy…but I run my business from this point of view–A client owed me money and after several requests that she pay her bill, I realized she was not going to…I called her, thanked her for her business, and told her bill was canceled. Nope, I never got paid, but I have also never had a client not pay me, again. Go figure.

  44. Xaris, when we lived in Morningside Heights, our block had the problem of homeless people breaking into cars for a dry place to sleep during stretches of bad weather. This happened to me a few of times over the years, even though there was never anything in the car to steal, hidden or otherwise. The cost of replacing the broken windows and cleaning the seats definitely worked out better than paying to park in a garage.

  45. Been there, done it so often. I also leave my doors open and nothing of value in the car. It took several ‘hits’ before anyone even took my ‘Toolz-All’. I know it is the neighbourhood kids and that every summer the next generation will be out trawling.
    It’s a rite of passage, I suggest.

  46. My boyfriend’s car was broken into around Christmas time a few years ago because he had left a new computer entirely visible inside the trunk (he drives a Rav4). The thief also stole a wet suit that he bought me for the holiday. My boyfriend was working on putting together this computer for a friend at the time. I don’t know what he was thinking leaving a computer in the trunk. Anyway, he ended up having to buy the friend a new computer.

    JD you mentioned that you have room for one vehicle in the garage. If you have a one-car garage, perhaps you can look into getting a car lift. Not cheap, but will perhaps save you all the drama.

  47. Tinted windows could help. 1, it makes it hard for somebody to see into your car so they’re not going to see anything of value (if you leave anything out). 2, if somebody smashes the window, it doesn’t crumble, it stays in tact. I think often car burglars are less likely to tamper with windows with tint.

    That and get an alarm (with shock sensor).

  48. I think there is something JD is forgetting that can be stolen aside from items inside the car: the car itself. Having it parked on the street, unlocked, with no alarm and away from the lights of house driveway a thief could have it hotwired and on his way in under 20 seconds. Of course if they’re determined to they’ll get it anyway, but as former professional thieves have attested they will always take the path of least risk and resistance so unlocked car on the side of the street is a quick and easy target for theft. Taking it from the driveway after having a security light light them up would present more risk and some thieves will move on to find an easier target.

  49. I guess I consider myself lucky living in a place where I can’t imagine that happening. I do have a car with an OEM alarm, and I always lock it, but I’ve never been worried. My GPS and MP3 player just sit in there all the time. At one apartment, I left my $500 bike on the porch and didn’t even think twice about it. And at my current house, I lived there half a year before I started locking the rear sliding doors when I left.

    When I go into the city (Harrisburg, PA), though, I put the electronics out of sight.

  50. People make up the environment.
    In some environments, anything left unattended get stolen.
    In other environments, people are caring and sharing.

    People using Booze & Drugs do stupid things
    But only to cars, easy accessible to their immediate vicinity.
    Cars parked far away, rarely get broken into.

    Time of day has a lot to do with the way people act.
    Day time Straight Arrow business, gives way to
    Nights, loosen up, unwind, anything goes.

    People make up the vandals.
    If you have a new shiny expensive car, it will attract trouble.
    If you have a old, dirty, cheap car, no one’s interested in it.

    move to another environment,
    move the car farther away from temptation,
    or get a “Boring Bare Bones Beater” that Blends in.

  51. Don’t sweat it. That’s the price for living where you live. I assume YOUR vehicles arent’t the only ones getting broken into.

  52. A friend of mine left her car unlocked until the night when she opened the door to find a man in the back seat who held a gun to her head. Luckily, she screamed and he fled. I ALWAYS tell people that the most valuable thing in your car is you. Replacing a window is trivial compared to your safety. Sorry that this is happening to you. Take Care.

  53. Thanks for all of the advice. I think the “leave nothing in plain view” mantra is one I’ll take to heart. Though I don’t leave anything of value in the car, there are books and CDs and magazines and piles of junk. (I have a messy desk; I have a messy car.) Time to change that habit.

    I also like the idea of a motion-sensitive light. There’s a nice spot that I could put one, I think.

    EscapeVelocity asked an astute question: Is that “one-car garage” or “two-car garage, but with so much stuff in it there’s only room for one car”?

    It’s more like the latter, though it’s more complicated. It’s an old garage, and we had a heck of a time getting the first garage-door opener installed. We haven’t even tried with the second door, which will be even more bothersome. But maybe we should.

    RE: Crime
    This isn’t really a high-crime area. It’s just prone to car burglaries, apparently. (And, sometimes, to mail theft.) All the other crime stats are pretty low. I think the car/mail theft is easier for the crooks on our street because many people park on the street, which has low traffic. Because most of the houses are set back from the road, it’s easy to prowl without attention.

    Finally, I like the tongue-in-cheek suggestion of leaving a crazed animal in the car. I could take whichever cat is annoying me most at the moment and leave it in the vehicle overnight to thwart the burglar. 🙂

  54. I don’t know if it is the same in the US as it is here in the UK, but if you leave your car unlocked and is stolen/has items taken from it, it invalidates the car insurance. It seems a good idea as it saves a window, but if the thief wanted to steal your car they have gained entry easily and just need to then hot wire it and drive off.
    Get a cheap alarm and/or immobiliser.

  55. Good grief – why do you live there? My wife would have had us out of there no later than crime #2. Life is way too short to put up with an environment like that.

  56. You have my sympathies. I’ve lived in the Seattle area for the last seven years, and had my car stolen twice, and broken into at least 4-5 times. I’ve been ‘lucky’ (if you can call it that) that they haven’t smashed a window to get in–they’ve just popped the locks. (I have a VERY old Dodge Caravan–incredibly easy to get into, apparently).

    Some things I learned from all this:

    It doesn’t matter how old and/or crappy your car is. At least in this area, most of the car thefts are from punks who joyride around in it until it’s out of gas, then dump it and go steal another. (Both times my car has been found that way.)

    My car was so old there was no point in installing an expensive alarm system. But the Club (or a similar product) *does* work. It doesn’t make your car impossible to steal (they can still cut through your steering wheel if they’re really motivated), but it’s an effective visible deterrent. Casual thieves will not want to deal with it–they’ll go to an easier mark. (The second time my car got stolen was because I’d moved to the suburbs and gotten out of the habit of putting it on–BIG MISTAKE.)

    Whatever you have in your car, they will take. The first time my car was stolen, they took a set of socket wrenches I had stashed away in a compartment. After that I didn’t keep anything even remotely of value–but successive break-ins still took a handful of Canadian coins, some costume jewelry, and some tape cassettes respectively. One even left their screwdriver behind–net gain on that one, I guess!

    If you don’t want the hassle of replacing your 1920’s CDs, I’d definitely recommend you take them out of your car–I had *movie soundtracks* on tape cassette, for crying out loud, and they still took them. I was more amused than anything–I can’t imagine any pawnshop that would give them anything for what they took!

    I was tempted to leave my car unlocked–but I didn’t want to make stealing it any easier (or invite bums to sleep in it). After a while, though, I stopped fixing my locks–they worked just fine as-is. If you do leave your doors unlocked, I’m make extra sure to check your backseat/passenger areas through the windows for unwanted guests *before* you get in. (Carry a maglite to help with this if it’s usually dark out when you go to/come home from work–it also makes a good club if needed.) Especially if you’re a woman–but good advice for anyone!

    Hope this helps!

  57. I never locked our car either, until one day someone opened the door, threw up all over the floor, and closed it again.

  58. In my old place we had to park on the street (it was a duplex and the owners had the other apt so they got the driveway parking). My car was broken into several times. The back windows were the type that “vented” up so they would take a screwdriver and pop the locks and then reach in and open the front doors. They took my radio, change, and any loose items (each time).

    The locks were expensive to replace so after the third time, we wired the locks shut. We also installed a “fake alarm” box. My husband made it–it was a blinking red led, powered by a battery and held in a little black box which I could turn on (parts from Radio Shack).

    One day I go out and there is a small screwdriver laying near my car. I think they tried to open the windows but the wire was too strong and they dropped the screwdriver in frustration. Made me feel good. At least they didn’t break my window like you’ve had happen.

    Definitely don’t leave anything visible in the car. I drive to a local park for walks and the car next to me recently was broken into because the woman left her purse on the seat while going for a walk (the area is notorious for thefts from cars because it is a walking trail park and lots of people leave stuff in cars).

    Alarms are a good idea, as is parking in the drive way if you can (with a sensor light above).

    Doors unlocked keeps the windows safe for small-time thieves but the car could easily be stolen, so it depends on what you want to risk.

    Hard to protect a car when you live in an area where you are prone to this (as I did before I moved).

  59. My car was burglarized earlier this year while i was at a softball game. Unfortunately I lost about $1000 worth of electronics including my ipod, a gps, a digital camera and various other electronics and accessories. strange thing was that my car was in my sight while i was at the softball game, and the person doing the burglary had to have been pretty sneaky. Frustrating – and makes you feel violated.

    Luckily for me I blogged about the experience and had friends in the blogosphere donate a brand new ipod shuffle, a digital camera, and some cash. The kindness of strangers amazes me!

  60. I few months back we had something similar happen in our neighborhood. Someone was breaking into all of the cars and taking radios and anything else of value. We thought we had been skipped, but were wrong.

    I am from a small town were we always left our doors unlocked, house and car. When I moved to the Tampa area, I never thought much of it. I always left my car unlocked. The thief did get in my car, but left my windows intact, unlike my neighbors. The only thing they took was my husbands half dead ipod mini with a broken screen that will not hold a charge. I hope he likes Buddy Holly! We never leave anything in the car now.

  61. As to the idea of whether or not to leave the door unlocked…I had a friend who stopped unlocking his doors for the same reasons as you – and then a few months later someone broke his window anyway to try to steal something. You have to realize, casually wandering by a car and breaking a window is often the quickest way to get in and out – and taking time to check the doors takes time…

    On the flip side, when I was a kid and I would stay late with my parents at their business, we would always be surprised at how often people just walking down the street late would “test” the front door…I think in most cases they weren’t necessarily thinking about breaking in, and may have just been doing it similar to when people take a stick and rattle a fence as they walk by…but if that door had been open…who knows if the opportunity might have overridden their previous benign intentions.

  62. One time a thief (or set of thieves) broke in to a bunch of cars in our apartment complex in the middle of the night. They took a grocery club card (???) and a flashlight (guess they forgot to pack one). Our pickup truck has a key for its spare tire, which we used to keep in the glove box, and the thief tried to use it to start the car apparently. But other than that all that happened was that we had to pay $80 to get the lock fixed.

  63. Move.

    I’m not even being facetious. 3 burglaries in 4 years is a good indicator you live in a not so great place. You mentioned that the other types of crime have a low rate, but car break ins are high. What degree of crime will it take for you to decide it’s best to abandon the neighborhood? Theft from your car and property damage doesn’t seem to bother you. What about theft right from your home? What about a loved one at gunpoint? If people are comfortable walking right up to your house and breaking into your car it isn’t much of a leap to break into the house itself.

    People steal because they are desperate. The difference between breaking a car window for electronics and change and pointing a weapon at someone and demanding the electronics and change they have on them… isn’t as big of a leap as you’d think.

  64. Having lived in Memphis for the past decade I’ve learned there isn’t much you can do, even in the nice areas. I’ve never been bold enough to leave my doors unlocked, but the only thing of value in my car is the car itself. Moving isn’t an option cause crime is going to follow you – it knows no boundaries.

    I have learned to be careful where I park – I park under street lights and in plain view of lots of people if possible. I usually will pay for secured parking. I don’t park in isolated areas in broad daylight. My car has been broken into more during the day than at night and that was due to being behind a building.

    When I had an 89 Stanza I got broken into all the time. Then I bought a used 01 Acura, only been broken into 1 time and they smashed the window. Clearly it was easier to pick the lock of the older car than the newer one.

    It’s my humble opinion that with all the meth-heads, crack-heads, whatever you want to call them, running around that petty crime is going to be rampant in this country. I truly blame it on drugs cause a sober criminal isn’t going to risk jail time (or getting shot) by stealing change out of the cupholder. A sober criminal is coming in your house, not your car.

  65. When I lived in the Bronx, my car was broken into twice. Both times windows were broken- after the second one- we ended up getting plexi-glass. But after that I started leaving the glove compartment open- with nothing in there. Inside I left a bag by the door with all of my cds, registration,and other car needs and took this to the car and back to the apartment everyday- it seemed to work. Sorry this happened again! Emptying the car is key in my experience.

  66. Even if your car insurance doesn’t cover property stolen from your car, check your homeowners insurance. I know my rental insurance covers items in my car if it is in my driveway, and I would assume you could have a similar clause in your insurance. Of course, since you’re keeping expensive things out of it, it doesn’t really matter I suppose.

    Yes, definitely clean up your car – the burglar doesn’t know all the CDs are music from the 20’s until they’re in your car to look at them.

    I also have a solution you’ll really like! 🙂 Trade in the Focus for that Mini Cooper you want, and make sure it has a clearly visible alarm!

  67. If you leave your car unlocked, they can just hide behind the seat until you get in and carjack you.

    This is bad. Don’t do it.

  68. we used to live right near downtown, so we had to be careful. we never leave anything visible in the car anywhere. not a thing. i have an ipod adapter in there (the hardwired, more expensive kind) and that’s buried in the dash with no visible evidence. my bag never stays in the car, and all cupholders and such are covered up.

    my car’s windows are tinted as well, which makes it very hard to see anything in there at night. during the day it’s harder but not impossible.

    i have some burned cd’s in the center console, that’s it. they say around here “out of sight, out of mind” – if the burglar can’t see anything, he’s not going to take the chance of breaking in.

  69. Maybe someone has mentioned this, but I always thought the insurance company wouldn’t cover damage if the car had been left unlocked.

  70. My parents had their (disabled-adapted) van broken into in the supposedly secure, patrolled, carpark of a children’s hospital. Seriously!
    The thief only stole the radio, (leaving literally thousands of pounds of medical kit and drugs untouched) but in the process broke the one window that was non-standard due to the adaption. Took three orders from the VW factory in Germany to get the right one in one piece. So my Mum installed the replacement in the glove box and taped some loose wires in the hole left by the thieves. Never got hit again.

  71. Sorry to hear it. I know how you feel. I had my car stereo, amplifier, and speakers stolen, the day before leaving on an 800 mile road trip. I had to buy a $20.00 radio to keep my sanity. That was my car stereo for the next 3 years. Memories of college life.

    Best regards,
    Dan malone

  72. In Baltimore you had to make sure there was nothing shiny in your car as someone might mistake it for money and smash the window.

  73. Our solution is to drive a really crappy looking older car. I find this deters thieves better than locks, alarms, and motion sensors and it’s cheaper, too.

    We live in a college town and car theft/vandalism is the most common crime in our small city. People leave our 95 Subaru Legacy with the ugly peeling paint alone. It does have a nice stereo (came with the car when we bought it on craigslist) but it has that device that makes it unplayable without entering a code, and so it wasn’t taken when some local student party-goers took the iPod transmitter out of the car when it was parked in the driveway. From this I learned that I shouldn’t ever demonstrate that I’ve got anything of value (though your tale about stealing the jumper cables is a cautionary one that will require some pensive moments and possible revisions to my strategies).

  74. I had my old Nissan Sentra broken into 3 times in 1 year back when I was in college. The first time they smashed the driver’s side window and stole an amp out of the trunk and my radio faceplate, but not the radio itself. The second time they broke the passenger side window (which was actually kinda nice since they had been tinted and after getting the other one replaced they were mismatched). There was nothing to steal except a pair of gloves. The kind you get at the grocery store for 99 cents. Obviously after the first time I removed everything of value from the car. The third time, with the doors unlocked and no radio faceplate I just found the glove box and ash tray open.

  75. I had my car broken into at the gym a few months ago. Door was locked, thought i had the alarm on, but the person smashed the window and got my wallet and phone from the glovebox. I think about not even bothering to lock it since I had to pay $200 to fix the window, but what if they steal the actual car????! ugh

  76. In my urban neighborhood, there has been a rash of car thefts but instead of stealing items from the car, they steal the car and use it to run drugs. It’s happened to two co-workers and several neighbors. Unfortunately for my boss, leaving the car unlocked only made it easier for them to actually steal the vehicle.

  77. It’s funny- I was talking to my husband about burglaries just last night. We’ve had a bunch (and some assorted armed robberies) in our neighborhood recently as well.

    I asked him: What do you think that they need the money for?

    He replied, drugs, rent, child support, etc. I wondered if anyone was using the money from selling the stuff from the robberies to buy food or to pay their electric bill. It just made me incredibly sad to think that might be the case.

  78. You have a 2 car garage and you only use one side because the other door doesn’t have an automatic opener on it yet? Open it by hand and park inside. Problem solved, and it’s good exercise.

  79. The neighbors across the street installed motion sensor flood lights pointed at the street. Every time someone walks/drives/wildlife moves in front of their house our bedroom lights up like a football field. It’s the most rude obnoxious thing ever. We talked to them about it, now they’re aimed at our neighbors house and he’s getting fed up as well.

  80. JD, you may want to pay attention to comment 58 above. I don’t know about invalidating car insurance, but there are areas of the country (I’ve seen signs saying as much from around the Dallas area, for instance) where it is actually illegal to leave your car unlocked (the justification being that it costs taxpayer money and police officers’ time to investigate crimes, so you should do what you can to prevent them).

    I think that’s an absurd case of blaming the victim, but it’s still true. You may need to be careful you’re not running afoul of the law by leaving the car unlocked.

  81. Around where I live, thieves don’t bother stealing things inside cards, they just steal the cars themselves. A good thief will open a car, ignite it and drive away in under 2 minutes. And drive it where? To some clandestine disassembling operation that’ll make your car disappear (and lots of cheap parts appear in the black market) in under 3 hours. In short, leaving doors open here would be very counterproductive, to say the least.

  82. Maybe you should ask yourself what you would do if the car in question was your much desired MINI? I imagine you would clear the garage and fix the door pronto- so do it for this car and when the MINI is finally purchased you’ll sleep well knowing it is safe.

  83. Unfortunately, leaving your car unlocked doesn’t really stop determined (but stupid) thieves from doing damage to your car as they try to break in.

    My car (which contained nothing of value – I had some pennies (perhaps $.20) on the floor, and that was it) was broken into while it was parked in front of my house. Not only was it unlocked, but I had the front window open. Nonetheless, the thief broke one of the rear windows to gain access to the car, stole my pennies, and attempted to steal my CD player by ripping it out of the dashboard.

  84. i think we have a sort of knee-jerk or instinctive reaction to the idea of someone going through *our* stuff. but i think if you stop and think about it for a minute, the first question should be – so what?

    unless you are concerned that someone will steal the car itself, i would drop the issue from my mind immediately. doors unlocked means no damage, and nothing valuable in the car means nothing of value stolen. so how are you affected by this really?

  85. I think that you just ran into some bad luck. Like the lady said, a determined thief is going to get what he wants. You might have better luck, telling the cops. You and the rest of your county pay their salaries, so why would there be such a obviously huge problem within a small concentrated area (your car). Suggest that they send a patrol car out to your neighborhood a couple of times a week at night to scan the area.

    When I was in college, I had my car broken into 3 times. Every time was during the day, while I was parked at a meter. The incidents happened so much in the area, the cops didn’t even bother responding when I called. I just looked forward to the days of gated communities and garages.


  86. I am one of the ones who can’t imagine living in an area like that. I live in a rural area and the thought of my car, or house, being broken into rarely even crosses my mind. We leave our house unlocked at night sometimes, if we forget about it. I have an 05 model year car which came with an immobilizer and car alarm. It works so well that sometimes it won’t even start for me.

    I leave all kinds of crap in my car, but nothing really valuable. When I lived in Japan, amazingly enough, my friend left his car doors unlocked and my back-pack got stolen. It had my credit card, bank card, foreigner card, everything but my passport. That was a huge pain, so I can empathize with those who have been burgled.

    Living where I do now, though, I have to say I have gotten complacent. The fake LED alarm thingie sounds like a really good idea, I would probably try that out in your situation.

  87. It may have been posted already, but…if you don’t leave *much* in your car, have you thought about not leaving *anything* in your car? Just take a couple of things in and out every time you go to your car. Not that big of a deal, and there won’t be anything for them to steal or you to replace anymore.

  88. Hooray for Ford Focus’s….such great cars! I also park on the street, but my car doesn’t have anything that a burglar would want…maybe the CD player, but I’m pretty sure it doesn’t work outside of the car. Hope everything works out well for you Trent!

  89. I don’t leave anything in the car, not even an empty paper bag. Anything can look like something to a criminal. The only time I had my car broken into was when I left a plastic bag of clothes on the floor in the back seat.

  90. I have to agree with the people who’ve suggested getting a cheaper car. My father’s Mercedes has been broken into several times even though he leaves nothing in plain sight.
    My old Tercel? Not only does not get broken into (I too keep it spotless inside), but when bad things do happen, I save a lot of money compared to your average SUV or newer models. Plus it’s great on gas!
    If you must have a car, make it small and reliable.
    As for keeping music in your car, why not burn your favourite cd’s onto a blank disc? They have no resale value.

    Please don’t buy a noisy car alarm… worst invention ever (next to the plastic grocery bag).

  91. I live in a city full of crime. Car break-ins are a cost of living here. I’ve had four in my lifetime on the East Coast if I remember correctly.

    I miss my old car – it didn’t have a trunk release. I felt safer leaving my purse in the trunk at the mall. I think that frustrated the criminals who broke in because they broke the other window once they were in.

    NOTHING in plain sight I agree with. When I read your post JD I was shocked you left checks in the car?? I couldnt believe it! And yes, I agree even a few coins can tempt a break-in.

    Another popular item: Winter coats. Several friends have left their coats in the car before we hit the town – only to come back with their window and coat gone.

    This is a bit OT – but if I have my way I will always have a stick shift car – it is the #1 car thief deterent (at least where I live where car theft is mostly joy riding). My car was “stolen” – they found out a bit too late they couldnt drive stick right and kept stalling. They made it about a block before the police descended on them as they were putt-putting away.

  92. I honestly don’t think the cost of the car really matters when it comes to break ins. I know people with older cars who has had issues with break-ins and car theft. The older the car, the easier is it to steal. None of the people I know with “nicer” cars (including us) has had problems other than having a car keyed once.

  93. I was confused by JT’s comment about installing a garage door opener on garage door #2.. I know you live in Oregon, but you’re already parking at the curb and walking into the house. Surely you could get out of your car to manually open the garage door??

  94. This happened to me recently as well. Same exact thing – I thought everything was fine but when I closed the back door of my Elantra a bunch of glass fell off from the other side and it took me a few minutes to put two and two together.

    The only thing they took was an empty backpack, so it could have been worse. I had made the mistake of parking in a pretty bad area of town. Truly I think people are less likely to take the chance of breaking in if absolutely nothing is visible. In my case the backpack probably could have held a laptop (to a thief’s eyes)

  95. I’ve had my car broken into a couple times before too. The only thing stolen from me was a portable CD player that I plugged into the tape deck (it was a while ago). The other time, I had left my wallet in the car but it didn’t have any cash in it. I guess the thief didn’t think my credit cards were valuable.

  96. You guys have some great suggestions. Just to clarify things about the garage and why I don’t use it:

    We live in an old house. The garage is detached. It’s a separate building about a hundred feet from the house. It’s actually an old barn or storage shed that has been converted to a garage. There are two garage doors, but as I said, they’re fussy and non-standard. The installation guy groused about the first opener, and he thought it would be very difficult to do the second one. (Though he did say it could be done.) That, and we do use the garage for storage, especially during winter. Kris keeps her canning jars there. When the rain arrives, the picnic table and lawn furniture goes inside.

    I know that all sounds like rationalization, and maybe it is. I’ve said all along that when I get my Mini Cooper, I’ll park it in the garage. Maybe I should park the Focus, too. (Oh yeah — there’s nothing about that old car that makes it a desirable target, except that I have lots of crap laying around inside.)

    Finally, our neighborhood is not a bad neighborhood. It’s a good neighborhood, and we love our neighbors. Most of all, we love our house. However, there are a couple of bad seeds around…

  97. My friend’s 87 Corrolla was stolen from Lloyd Center when we went to see a movie, a couple weeks later I found it parked on the street downtown littered with parking tickets (shouldn’t the meter maid’s handhelds be connected to the police depts records? I mean, this was in the same city).

    About a year later her window was broken and her gym bag taken on a super busy street in the Pearl District. funny thing about that, when she had the window repair guy come out to fix the two front windows that were broken he found out (after he took the door apart) that the passenger window was just rolled down by the thieves, not broken 🙂

    Her ’05 Camry hasn’t been broken into in the past 3 1/2 years that she’s had it. I think it has a blinky light.

  98. JD,

    I think that if you would park your Mini Cooper in the garage, then you should get your Focus in there too. It will have everything ready for you when you switch. If you put it off till after you get the Mini, there is a good chance you’ll keep putting it off and never get it done.

    I recommend installing the opener yourself – especially if you have a friend who is handy who might be willing to help you out. There is a good chance that the installation guy complained just because he couldn’t do the setup as straightforward as in a new garage. This will save you a lot of money and be a good learning experience!

    Focuses and Minis are short and narrow cars – I bet you could find a way to rearrange things so you can still store your lawn furniture while parking there.

  99. I had a jeep with a convertible top that was broken into 3 consecutive nights. I had the faceplate of my stereo in my house, but the thief was trying to pull out the rest of the stereo. The damage put the car in the shop for a few days and I parked in a different location in my neighborhood afterwards. I also added a small paper sign to one of the windows of my convertible top that read “No money. No stereo. No kidding.” I had seen this elsewhere and thought it was cute, but could it be effective? Well, I never got broken into again and I had the vehicle in the same neighborhood for another 5 years.

  100. Something else I should have mentioned…As I said earlier I live in Memphis where crime is high. My neighborhood has an association. That helps alot cause they have block captains and meetings and internet message boards where neighbors talk about these problems. People get to know one another and know the problems going on in the area.

    A few years back the neighborhood got together and hired private security to patrol the area. With 200 households paying $35/month we were able to hire one private truck to drive around 24/7. Those 200 people have direct access to the private security (that gets there usually before the police). The rest of us (non-payers) still reap the benefits of having extra security. It has helped with violent crime and home invasions, but the biggest improvement has been in curtailing petty crime (like car break-ins). Our neighborhood has been so impressed with the added security that another 200 households have ponied up $35/month and we now have 2 trucks patrolling 24/7.

    I live in a pretty affluent neighborhood, and it may not be feasible to hire private security in your neighborhood. But starting an association or at the very least organizing some meetings and setting up a message board and getting some email addresses to keep people in touch would be something any income level could do.

    My neighborhood has a website if you want more information – click on security service to read about the private security

  101. I live in a very nice area, but right across a river from one of the worst areas in my city. My street is apartments with single garages in back for blocks. A couple of months ago, we walked outside to go to work and saw cops up and down the block. A couple thieves came over and stole stuff out of peoples’ cars….in all the unlocked garages. They got everyone in our building except us.

    We shook our heads, called our neighbors idiots, and carried on. Also, the only things of value in my car are attached to my car (radio which has a cover I always close). The only cds I keep in there are burned copies of cds I keep in the house.

  102. Alexander @ #92 said: “A good thief will open a car, IGNITE IT and drive away in under 2 minutes.” (I added the capitalization for emphasis)

    I’d think that it would be easy for the police to keep an eye out for flaming cars driving down the road… 😉

  103. “Finally, our neighborhood is not a bad neighborhood. It’s a good neighborhood, and we love our neighbors. Most of all, we love our house. However, there are a couple of bad seeds around…”

    lol; that is EXACTLY what people say on the news about their neighborhoods when being interviewed after a heinous crime.

  104. I used to live in San Francisco and learned a few hard lessons just as you did.

    I had the latch disconnected to pop the trunk from inside my car. This made it impossible to get inside my trunk without a key. This gave me a place to put valuables if I could not take them out of the car.

    Also, never put anything of value in the trunk after you park. Put it in the trunk before you move the car. If anyone sees you put anything in the trunk after parking, you make your car a target (learned this the hard way too).

    Otherwise you are correct: leave nothing of value in plain site.

  105. That sucks, good that nothing valuable was stolen. When I was a kid someone broke into our van in a public parking lot. They took two cheap pair of sunglasses that were on the dash but didn’t take the portable stereo or wallet full of cash? Thieves are weird. I left my purse in a moving van one time while we were loading stuff from a music video shoot (Elton John), someone stole my wallet while we were only yards away. Or this is a good one, my friends had the doors of their jeep removed while it was parked on the street. Apparently there was a whole rash of jeep door thefts in the neighborhood and it was almost $2k to get them replaced. I’d keep the car in the driveway if you can, but if you’re not that concerned just keep doing what you’re doing.

  106. You said the second garage door will be difficult to add an opener to. Why not get out of the car and open it by hand? A loss of convenience, sure, but a savings of $200 or more.

    That doesn’t solve the storage issue, but that might be better solved by spring cleaning, or getting a cheap shed for the lawn furniture, etc.

  107. Definitely never leave valuables in the car – in sight or not. I had to tell my visiting sister to even take snack food/crackers inside to avoid having her car broken into. In that same neighborhood, I had an old Honda that my husband and I were getting ready to sell when – to our luck – it got stolen! We were actually quite happy about it. They found it but we were able to take the insurance money (which was a little more than what we thought we could get if sold) and didn’t have to pay taxes (like we would have if we had sold it). In an incident prior when I lived in a “safer” neighborhood, I had left my stereo faceplate on, which means they took the entire stereo. I learned my lesson and always take my faceplate with me now, even if I’m going somewhere for just a few minutes.

  108. Gosh… who knew car burglaries would be such a community bonding moment?

    My ideas:
    ~Clean the garage. A pain- yes. Worth it? That’s up to you.
    ~Motion-sensor light. Cheap, easy to set up, and probably less hassle than the garage clean up project.
    ~Make a neighborhood coalition.

    Car thieves will steal anything (I had my powder compact and hair brush stolen from my car- ewww, but the thieves left all identity papers and my $100 parking pass. Since I reported the crime to the police and told details about what they stole they were tracked down a year later and charged). Reporting every break-in can help, even after you’ve long given up hope.

    Try to get heightened awareness of the problem out to the neighbors might help. Someone might see someone go to your car and open the door. They may think that it’s someone you gave your keys to- since the car door opened right up.

    Try asking the young professional who goes to the gym and 5am to keep an eye out for suspicious behavior. Ask the nigh-owl who walkes their dog at 11pm to do the same. Ask a house wife to keep her eyes peeled during the day. Put up those “community watch signs”. Have neighbors also install motion sensors on their lights. Ask who knows someone in law enforcement who might be able to help you out. If not, request that an office comes out and give your neighborhood coalition a home and car safety talk. My neighborhood did this when I lived in a sketchy area of LA, and it was helpful.

    Just bringing the problem to light may bring about community action and make your neighborhood less prone to theft.

  109. Are you really that stupid?
    Keeping your doors unlocked is just nuts.
    You are inviting others to sleep, urinate, etc. in your vehicle.

  110. Actually, your comments about parking in the garage by manually opening the damn thing are excellent. I work from home, right? I don’t go out that often. Parking in the garage seems like a goal I should strive to achieve. 🙂

  111. That’s so sad to hear JD, at least you were smart enough to not keep valuables in the car.

    My dad’s work car was recently broken into and the change was stolen from the change tray. According to police, it’s a craze of thefts for drug money.

  112. If you have a garage opener in the car, he/she can easily look up your address in the insurance card in the glove box and use it to break into your house. Scary!

  113. When I lived in Southern California I had my car broken in to in a church parking lot – on Easter Sunday no less!

    I agree with the others – no valuables in plain site, tint the windows, and have an alarm system put in (or a faux alarm).

    One other thing: I set my dome light to come on when I open the door or push the unlock button for the power locks. If the light doesn’t come on – I approach with caution. I don’t want any surprises.

  114. I once took friends who were in town for a convention to the Bloedel Conservatory. We weren`t inside long, but while we were looking at tropical plants and birds somebody went down the line of parked cars and broke into several of them, the one we were driving included.

    It was actually my daughter`s car, an older Mustang. He ruined the passenger side door lock and took a couple of small items. I think he was mostly concentrating on trying to get the stereo out (unsuccessfully).

    One of the girls had left her bag on the floor of the front passenger seat and, amazingly, her passport and money for the trip were still in a pocket of the bag! Other people parked by us were missing more, including a credit card IIRC.

    As for your situation, it seems to either be teens doing it for kicks or a druggie. I would grit my teeth, clean out the other side of the garage, get the door functional and start parking inside.

    Of course, you still have to be vigilant about leaving the car empty when you park in public places and there`s not much you can do about pure vandalism. We got all four door panels keyed a few months ago by a guy who has done this to literally hundreds of cars in Greater Vancouver and we just don`t have $300 that we don`t need for any other purpose to pay the deductible.

    I believe this person is both mentally ill and has some grudge against ICBC but it is really infuriating when you consider that every affected car owner has to pay that $300 to get his or her car fixed!

  115. On his 30th birthday, my hubby was pistol whipped and mugged on our front porch. A couple weeks later we phoned the police to break up a drug deal going on in our front yard. I guess the bad guys found out about it because the next day our house was broken into and vandalized. Spray paint (and worse) on all the walls, the furniture, everything that could be was broken and everything that could be carried gathered up and put on the bed. I guess they were going to carry it out bundled in the blanket or something. But they got disturbed and only left with my boom box and my wedding ring. (I was pregnant and it didn’t fit on my finger anymore.)

    What the bad guys didn’t destroy was pretty much destroyed by the cops and their fingerprinting powder. No prints were found, the guys were never caught. I was so terrified and afraid for my family’s safety that we moved the following weekend.

    It took months to get over that feeling of being violated and unsafe in my own home. Once I got to the point of saying, “It’s just STUFF,” I healed quickly.

    If my house burned down right this minute I’d be fine with the loss as long as my family gets out safely. The only things I might miss are family photographs, videos of the kids as babies, that kind of thing. I’ve really had to let it all go and realize that even the clothes on my back won’t make it out of this life with me.

    I’m not going to do dumb stuff like leave my purse on the passenger seat in an unlocked car with the windows down while I go to the store, but I’m also not going to invest my heart so deeply in a “thing” that can rust, be stolen or broken.

    My stuff can all be replaced, the lives of my loved ones can’t be. That’s the “neighborhood” where my head is living these days.

  116. out of sight out of mind…normally.

    i think it was highly irresponsible of the cop to suggest you not lock your car door. Yes, a determined burglar will do what it takes to get the job done; however, insurance and liability are against you if you didn’t take “reasonable” precautions to prevent a theft.

  117. Like #45 Mike suggested – since you work from home and don’t go out often, wouldn’t it be better (and much cheaper!) to only have one car? You might not even need a scooter (though I do recommend having a nice bike). You might be surprised at how easy it is – and it gives you more money and the thieves absolutely nothing to steal.

  118. I think it is especially a problem in PDX… why? Meth. The person sounds so desperate that they probably broke into multiple cars until they found enough cash to get their next fix. I have seen multiple cars in a row with broken windows. Sad.

  119. Leaving you door unlocked sounds like a good idea, but it would make it easier for theives so steal one the most valuable items in your car that you don’t might not think about, your gas. Open the door, pop the gas tank lever and siphon out the fuel…

  120. sorry to hear JD..

    i had some car speakers taken out of my garage a few months back.. my mom had left the garage door open one night by accident.. the actual speakers weren’t being used.. they were just lying in the garage collecting dust.. luckily they didn’t go inside the house or take anything else

    one suggestion? maybe getting a survailance camera.. or motion lights.. same thing happened to my friends (broken windows to their cars) and they now have cameras set up in their front door and front yard just in case it happens again

  121. You have neighborhood car prowlers that’s all. They get bored and rummage through other peoples stuff.

    The only sensible item stolen were the jumper cables. Maybe the prowler had a dead battery.

    Three years later it is probably the first prowlers younger siblings and their friends.

    See television is bad for kids. It leaves them empty and bored and wanting to get away with whatever is wicked and not get caught.

    I blame television. 🙂

  122. I think you should just keep doing what you are doing, with one exception…

    Put a little pop-up note in your glove compartment that, when opened, says “Nothing here… congratulations on wasting your time.”

    People are gonna do what they are gonna do, might as well let it roll of the back and not stress about it.

  123. I would never leave my car door unlocked. What if a burglar decides next time to steal the car itself? Your insurance policy almost certainly does not cover you if you leave the door unlocked.

  124. JD, you seem to be on good or friendly terms with your neighbors. If there have been other burglaries in town, why not form a Neighborhood Watch group with them? At the minimum, you’d be walking around for a spell (something for Get Fit Slowly!) and getting to know some of your less familiar neighbors. Get a group together, consult with the police for advice and any cautions, get a sign or two up on streets where there have been break-ins, maybe even have a talented writer in the group (hint hint) do a press release for your community weekly, and do recruitment during the National Night out (1st Tues. of each August). This, combined with some of the theft-deterrent advice in this thread, might help harden the defenses of the town and convince casual thieves to try easier targets or just hop a bus and go to Somebody Else’s Problemville.

  125. Taken: Worn-out sneakers, an old picnic blanket, disc 2 of Forty Licks, and a tattered Nerf ball

    Left: A set of golf clubs

    The moral: Don’t trust your worthless junk to Sacramento car thieves. Your valuables, on the other hand, will be just fine.

    The only kicker is that they left a nearly one-inch gap between the lock on the passenger door and the body that’s impossible to fix. There went pretty much all of my trade-in value.

  126. JD, you have very good timing on your posts lately. This just happened to my boyfriend. His late 1990s convertible was parked on a street of a very nice neighborhood (e.g., in the driveway of the house was a BMW). Yet some thief smashed in his passenger side window. He went through the glovebox, but there’s nothing there (the title is at home).

    So what did the thief get for his trouble? He stole about 20 of my boyfriend’s mixed CDs–MIXED! You can’t even sell those! Including one that was a Christmas present from me. He also took the collection of loose change.

    And yet, he missed the GPS that was sitting in the armrest.

    It really sucks that this is the third time it has happened to you! Maybe the community you’re in can install better lighting, put up signs for “Neighborhood Watch”, etc.

  127. I had my purse stolen out of my trunk while I was at a yoga class. It was locked in the trunk – mistake # 1, and the car was unlocked – mistake # 2, and they took out the back seat and stole it from inside the care. Karma…

  128. I leave my car unlocked most of the time. I also drive a junker. I do occasionally leave my wallet in the car, and don’t freak out if I forget and leave something valuable inside. My experience is that people are less likely to break into a 15-year-old car with junk all over, that clearly isn’t being cared for lovingly.

    Obviously, not a solution everyone is comfortable with.

    I was robbed once, the night after I bought my first car (which looked like new, and was only three years old). In retrosopect, I’m pretty sure one of the apartment managers was the thief; I mentioned it to them, and no one tried to use my cards or anything even though I never got around to reporting it. The door on the car was locked, but the car was really easy to break into; my husband and I both locked our keys in and broke into our vehicle ourselves at one point or another.

  129. @Mr. ToughMoneyLove: Good grief why does JD live there?

    It’s car burglaries, not drive-by-shooting, home invasion, or homicide. Give me f’ing a break, if everyone moves due to petty theft and crime, we’d all have no where to live.

  130. JD: I would just suck it up, and get the new door installed. Cost of living, you know?

    In addition, if you need more storage, just build a small lean-to, add-on to the back of the detached garage. Sure, it’ll take up some more space, but you and actually have it measured to demenstions that are better for your equipment, and easier to get in and out, if you want.

    If you don’t want to do it yourself, that’s the kind of easy build that you can hire out without much cost. On the other hand, you could just head over to Home Depot, and pick up one of those put-to-gether plastic jobbies.

    Seriously, park your car in the garage! 😉 & good luck!

  131. I have never had my apartment or car broken into:
    NRA (National Rifle Association) sticker on the car and a dog (Choc Lab) in the apartment seem to do the trick.
    I have lived in an apartment with a bad reputation for 2 years that 4 of my neighbors house and cars have been broken into. Mine hasn’t.

  132. My husband has an old Camry which refuses to die, and I have a 2001 Prius. Since 2006 the Camry has been broken into once (locks were destroyed and radio stolen), one of the tabs was cut off of the plate, and the car was rummaged through (nothing of value in the car, car is not of much value, and the stereo was already gone). My car has not has not been the target of any theft, possibly because of the theft-deterrent system.

    I guess it goes to show that just because your car is a rusty piece of junk, doesn’t mean you’re safe from criminals.

  133. Thieves are total pains in the ass.

    My father’s van window was smashed twice in the SAME WEEK. Same window too. My dad never has anything in the car so they didn’t take much.

    The whole ordeal is annoying when he tries to get to work and you find that you have to shell out $100 to fix it. Time is wasted and getting to work is bothersome in the winter with cold air running in.

    It’s like nothing will stop them. No matter how luxurious or crappy your car is, they’ll break in. I’d like to put a big warning sign in the car saying, “YOU ARE BEING VIDEOTAPED!”. But then, that’ll just tempt them to vandalize your car, even if there is nothing in it.

  134. My Honda Civic, parked on the street, was broken into and stolen last winter. Fortunately, it was recovered four days later. No real damage to the car (except they stole, of all things, my spare tire and my snow brush).

    Because I’m more worried about the actual car being stolen, not the stuff in it, I always get dibs on the garage (my husband parks his Nissan on the street).

  135. I’m so sorry 🙁 You must like by us. Our across the street neighbors have had 2 cars stolen and a window shot out in the last 5 years.

  136. I had someone break my window for a pack of twizzlers and a pepsi sitting on the front seat. It was all that I had in the car. I had to drive from Vancouver BC to Everett Wa in January without a window!

  137. Here’s my break-in story–thieves broke my back driver’s side window to take a black bag off my backseat. I would imagine they thought it held a laptop but it actually held sorority handbooks. I was bitter right after it happened, but now I just smile when I imagine the looks on their faces when they opened it!

  138. I’m with the sheriff. The very idea of not locking your car doors seems dangerous to me. Yeah, they don’t break your window, they just sit in there waiting for you get come back, then what? Sorry, I think that’s rather foolish and is more potential to put you in harms way, especially if you are female and live in a densely populated area.

  139. “That’s when he found the jackpot: jumper cables. That’s right – a burglar ransacked Kris’ car, and all he took was jumper cables. I can’t even begin to imagine what was going through this his head.”

    You live in the meth capital of the known inhabited universe, and those guys target anything made out of metal, to quickly cash in at the scrap dealers.

    Jumper cables are made out of copper, which has, what, tripled in value over the past year or and would be worth a few hits to a tweaker.

  140. Here in Houston, car break-ins are typically for stealing the car itself. This is for joyriding, stripping the cars down to parts, or “exported” to Mexico, or worse, committing other (typically worse) crimes. The smash and grab type of car burglaries are for the idiots who leave their bags/purses in plain view.

    I’ve got a Jeep with a hard top, so leaving the doors unlocked would just invite burglars to steal the doors if there is nothing inside. (Costs a lot of $$$). I live in an OK neighborhood, but we don’t have problems with people breaking into cars. It’s a quick way to get shot here going into people’s driveways burglarizing/stealing cars… And, no, criminals don’t get any sympathy here if they get shot.

  141. If this has happened twice, you’ve been cased as an easy target, and they will be back.

    I second, third, and fourth the advise to not leave your doors unlocked! Especially for women. Always check your backseat at night before getting in the car.

    Get a car alarm. A professional will not be deterred – if they want your car, they will take it. However, in most likelihood your repeat offender is a petty thief, and a car alarm will attract unwanted attention.

    But since you have a garage – throw away/ebay any junk that is in there and use it. 🙂

  142. Sorry to hear about your bad luck.

    I’d start locking your car, and keep removing valuables every night.

    I think I’d also put in a visible deterent – such as a flashing light – before an alarm. An alarm will deter someone after they do something like break a window. A flashing light will stop someone before they act.

  143. I’d lock your car. If someone actually steals it and it comes back damaged or not at all, you’ll get screwed on the insurance if they find out you didn’t lock your doors (assuming your insurance covers theft).

  144. I’m with you JD, when I owned a car I left it unlocked because it was on the street. It wasn’t worth anything itself, and I never left anything in it (of value or not).

    When my entire neighborhood got hit by a rash of car break-ins my car was left alone… or maybe they opened it up and looked and then just closed the door again, who knows?

    I’m glad that someone else mentioned getting out of your car and opening the door yourself, I was shocked that you didn’t think of that yourself… funny how “blind spots” can happen isn’t it?

    I’m also kind os suprised that no one mentioned that since you do work from home it may be possible to do without the 2nd car at all… even counting the cabs that I take when I am to lazy to walk/bus somewhere and the cars that I rent when I’m on business or want to go away for the weekend, I save THOUSANDS of dollars a year by not owning a car.

    I did the math before I sold my car, and was SHOCKED by how much it would save me. Since then I have also learned that it saves me money in less direct ways by cutting down on the “impulse” shopping on my way home from work.

  145. I am soo sorry this happened to you. My (unlocked) car was broken into in my own driveway once. The thief didn’t take anything important, but the feeling of violation was left behind. I think you are doing the best thing by staying cool about it. The stress you avoid will save you $$ in the future.

  146. Moving’s not going to do much good…car thievery is ubiquitous. It happens in the best of neighborhoods. And … I dunno about your insurance, but I believe mine is likely to be invalidated if the car is left unlocked. In any event, you can bet your insuror will not look kindly on your claim.

    In our part of the planet, it’s not a good idea to put an NRA sticker on your car, because it signals to the perps that you have guns in the house. This is an invitation to come on in and burgle the house — or worse, commit a home invasion.

    I have an infrared game camera that I used to snap pictures of my perp. Wuz just thinking of putting it on Craig’s List. Want it? It comes with a fancy battery and a nice long bolt to secure it to a tree or a wall. E-mail me if you’d like this nice toy. It takes stills: very good quality photos in the daytime; recognizable at night if the person gets close enough to the camera. If you put up a motion-sensitive light, too, you should be able to get an identifiable photo of anyone who comes sniffing around.

    I’ve also got two infrared digital motion cameras I’d just as soon get rid of. They’re a pain, though, because you have to run cables in through a window (or else drill a hole in the wall) to connect them to a TV box. But they do work!

  147. You could do like my little brother and just leave the doors unlocked, some cash on the dashboard, and a glock under your shirt.

  148. Kris’ response to all this? “Get a garage door opener.” And she says it in a way that’s non-negotiable. 🙂

    For those of you wondering about just getting out and opening the door: it can be done, but it’s not as easy as you might think. Again, this is a garage door from 1940? 1960? It’s not a modern garage door. Not making excuses — just pointing out that it’s not as simple as you think. 🙂

  149. I grew up on Long Island and while I’ve never lived in Manhattan, I’ve spent many nights there with my car parked on the street without incident, except once. I was home from college and borrowed my parent’s car (the family wagon) to visit a friend down in alphabet city. When I got to the city I noticed that my sister’s boom box (yes, this was almost 20 years ago) was in the back. So I tucked it up against the back seat. Then I took out toll money for the trip home from my pocket and stashed it in the ash tray. Per chance I spent my cash on beer and the night on a couch that evening, I wanted to at least have enough money to get home. Turns out we had a mellow night and there was no need for my cash back up plan. So that night I drive home. Park the car in the drive way. Reach for the ashtray to get my cash and only then I notice that it’s on the passenger seat floor. Empty. Holy S**t! Somebody robbed the car. Quick scan and I’m relieved to see that my sister’s radio is still there. The only thing taken… $1.50. No broken windows. And the car was still locked when I got in back in NYC. Whoever nailed me was good at what they did.

    These days I live in Maine. Now I have a family wagon. It’s parked in the driveway 3 feet from the road. The keys live in the ignition and it’s always unlocked. I even pulled the fuse to the “ding ding” alert so I don’t have to endure that nonsense when the keys are in the ignition and the car door is open.

  150. The one downside to leaving your car doors unlocked is that it will attract homeless people. My friend used to park his car out on the street (he lives in the city) only to find that it always really stunk the following morning. Turns out that homeless people were using it as a hotel.

  151. wow the theives in the us are so hard core 😛 haha did the theif not realise that he was actually sitting in a high value item!
    it was nice of them not to trash your car when they found nothing though! that happens quite a bit over here, in the past 3 months we’ve had the pc towers nicked from our offices about 4 times! this last time we hadnt even managed to replace them when they hit us again and they were so frustrated they smashed in all the internal doors and trashed all the desks! so now we all use laptops that get locked behind a 3″ thick steel lined door! a little over kill maybe but if it saves all our business data walking out the window then thats what we’ll do!

  152. @ jim
    that yanking the fuse idea sounds like a plan! that ding ding always struck me as the most stupid thing to put in a car! i must give it a go, my dad took it to extremes though and opened up the whole dash to cut the speaker out completely! 😀

  153. Sorry to hear about the burglary. I can’t imagine leaving my car doors unlocked in any circumstance though. I feel like locking the doors is one extra deterrent for theives. It would be frightening to find someone sleeping in there or something. I try my best do have nothing in plain view inside, so my car doesn’t look like it’s worth the time. However, I have plenty of stuff in the car…it’s just hidden in the trunk. I need to work on emptying it out. I also think older vehicles are less attractive to theives too. I’m with the car alarm/motion sensor idea, that will scare a theif away quickly!

  154. I used to have a habit of leaving my windows down and the car unlocked in the summer when I was at work.

    One night I was working late and alone and I heard a noise behind the building out near where my car was parked.

    I opened the back door to our building and looked out and noticed there was no light whatsoever – the back lights were out.

    Only when I tried to go home a couple of hours later did I find out the back lights were out because thieves had broken or unscrewed the bulbs while they were stealing the battery from my car.

    I figure the noise I heard was probably my hood being popped. I’m glad the people that stole the battery weren’t in a violent mood – going from the bright office to the pitch black night, I wouldn’t have seen ’em coming. It’s also probably good that they likely didn’t know I worked at a computer software company with hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of gear, was alone and effectively blind with them only 10 feet or so from me when I opened that door.

    Now the windows stay rolled up, the doors are always locked and nothing of value is in view.

    My brother broke up a group of six guys in the process of stealing the hood from his wife’s Lexus at 1am in the morning in the driveway of his house.

    Battery … a hood … value is indeed in the eye of the beholder.

  155. This happened to me and my finance in our last apartment several times and luckily the only thing I ever lost was a bunch of change that I kept in there for meters as well. When I spoke to the police they said it’s been happening a lot on our street and they stepped up their night patrol of our block. Also, we concluded that it was kids or teenagers who are happiest with electronics and change. Both my fiance and I STOPPED leaving any change in our cars- not on the floor not in the ashtray. It wasn’t that I care about that 2.43 that they walked away with but it just made me so scared to know someone had been in my car…
    Its annoying but good luck!!

  156. Fortunately, car burglaries are rare in my neighborhood. Sometimes they do get scratched by keys, though. I leave my car locked and take everything out. Only occasionally I forget to lock it or forget to take the radio front out, but nothing ever happened.

    My insurance does not cover burglaries from an unlocked car (you have to show the damage to the locks or windows) and I have glass insurance to cover tearing and breaking. If the car gets stolen there is no way to prove it was locked anyway, it is just inconvenient. If I leave my laptop it is not visible from outside and it is locked to an unremovable part of the car.

    However, as we speak I have a computer in the trunk which needs to be delivered tonight. The car is in an open space, the computer is not visible and there are plenty people around, so I think it will be fine…

    From Saturday, I will not have a car anymore because I sold it. No more parking or burglary troubles for me!

  157. Keep something moderately gross in your car. Take a gym bag and keep an old pair of sweaty shorts and sneakers in it for a few days so it gets a nice funk going. Toss in an old jock and battered half-used tube of anti-fungal or hemmroid cream. That’s a memory that will last the guy a lifetime and with a little luck he may tell his theiving buddies – “Stay away from that guy – he’s one sick bastard”.

  158. About a month after moving to a new town some idiot threw a brick through my rear window (SUV), and attempted to throw another through the side window (they missed, but damaged the side mirror and door panel). I’ve never been so angry in my life, but of course I had no idea who the responsible party was. It cost me a $500 deductible and the insurance company a couple grand in glass and body work.

    In your case, J.D, I’d probably leave a little envelope with the following note: “Smile for the camera! Congratulations, your photograph has just been captured and forwarded to (insert city) police department where I’m sure they know you. I have had thousands of dollars stolen from my vehicle, and one can only assume you are the habitual offender, so I plan to press felony theft charges against you.”

  159. I always lock my car. Well, most of the time. Of course the one night I don’t my car was broken into. They took my wallet. Boo! They were brave enough to come all the way up next to our side door, which has a motion light.
    All the unlocked cars in my companies parking lot were robbed in broad daylight. They hit three businesses in a row that we know of.

  160. When we were first married we lived in an area of Chicago where the rent was low and the local security reflected it. My husband was mugged within 3 months, and then 4 months later our car was broken into (we never leave anything of value in it, we always lock up and put a Club on the steering wheel, and we have several little blinky LEDs indicating the (useless!)car alarm).

    First, we moved. I’d rather pay higher rent than medical bills and glass replacement costs – not to mention the general tension of being always worried about the safety of my loved one… just not worth the “savings”.

    Now we park in a lot, and our 2000 Honda spends its time next to a new BMW convertible (possibly the fanciest car in the neighborhood). We haven’t been broken into since. 🙂

    The lesson – if your car looks like a cheap piece of crap, maybe they won’t break into it?

  161. My car has been broken into several times. In my neighborhood the break ins are generally done by drug addicts as opposed to “professional” burgelars. So fifty cents in change (in plain view) is enough to warrant a broken window. You may think you have nothing of value in your car, but an addict sees the path to his next fix…

  162. With the economy so bad, I see almost daily warnings to be extra careful – people are becoming more desperate and thieves are becoming bolder. Be extra careful getting in and out of the car when in parking lots too – I know at least two people who’ve had their purses stolen because they put the purse in first and then load the kids or groceries, and someone who has been staking them out steals the purse right out of the car.

  163. Two years ago our house was broken into, while were upstairs sleeping. They stole about $10k worth of stuff: complete movie collection, cameras, cell phone, two laptops, a game console and games, anything that was small, quick and accessible. To top it off, they used my new laundry baskets (I’d just gotten organized!) to haul the stuff to their van. Here’s the scary things about it (when I think too hard on it): 1) my younger son was teething at the time and was waking 1-2 times a night. After settling him back to bed, I’d often head down for a quick snack. That night, he slept through the night and I’d worn ear plugs (my husband snores). The teens who’d broken in brought in a hammer from the garage and dropped it on the living room floor, presumably to use on anyone they ran into. 2) After breaking into our house (they actually hit 3 houses that night plus several cars), down the street they broke into the car of a DEA agent whose car was unlocked. Guess what they found in the trunk? The agent’s gun (I don’t know if there were bullets too).

    I shudder sometimes to think if they’d found the gun before coming to our house and if I’d woken up with my son during the night. Worse, what if I’d carried him downstairs with me because he wouldn’t go back to sleep?

    We live in a low crime area, but anything can happen anywhere. We’ve since become distrustful and lock our doors even when we’re home. In other places we’ve lived, we’d often go out with the doors unlocked, the back door open or the garage open – never a problem. We’ve also installed a home alarm system, which has been an annoyance at times, but worth the $33/month for the peace of mind. Not that that will stop a determined person, but any deterrent is good, I think.

  164. I had a cell phone stolen before but now that I have kids, the most valuable things in my car, I can’t take with me… the car seats. Together worth about $750. I wonder if car thieves think of that, but they’re (hopefully) too bulky to try to take.

  165. My husband had his pickup parked in the middle of the woods in the middle of nowhere and someone stole his tail light assembly. The whole thing. They had to open the tail gate and unscrew it very carefully to get it out.

    And I once had some rattlesnake rattles stolen out of my car. Why did I have rattles in my car? Long story…. but the wisdom says whoever stole them is going to have some very bad luck.

  166. Lol, this is gross and crazy, but I work for a health department. We have pens that look like syringes for our immunization program. I keep a bunch of them on the back seat and some on my passenger seat. I heard a girl walk pass my car and said “yuck”. Hopefully thieves think the same way.

  167. I have gotten my car broken into in 3 different environments: wealthy suburban driveway, upper-class urban residential street, downtown Seattle parking garage in broad daylight. I always drive crappy/boring cars, so I don’t understand it!

    Crackheads take anything they can make $10 on. You really should carry everything around with you at all times, so they can’t take it from your unattended car. 🙂 I don’t know…I’m just going to move to the country.

  168. @Erika: Uhh… that might not be such a good idea with the syringes look alikes. You may be attracting even more attention from thieves with those.

  169. We have a car alarm. Our car was broken into twice (parked on the street) and an expensive tool set was stolen. A car alarm won’t completely prevent you from getting robbed, true, but it does deter thieves from picking your car, and they might just try a different one.

    I NEVER leave valuables in the car, and if I absolutely have to, I take great pains to hide them. For instance, when I drive to the park to go walking, I leave my purse in the trunk and just take my keys with me. I will put my purse in the trunk BEFORE I leave the house, so there’s not even a chance someone at the park will see my putting it in the trunk. I am always very careful hide whatever is in the car, valuable or not, so it’s not in plain view. A lot of thieves in my city are just drug addicts looking for something to rip off to sell for drugs. They don’t care what it is or how valuable it is. So you should make it look like there’s nothing there. I would NEVER leave my cellphone in the car, and charges, ipod transmitters, etc, I leave out of sight in the glove box.

    I also recommend getting a home alarm and motion sensors if you can. My parents got a home alarm, after three different houses in their condo complex got broken into. They live in a nice suburb and some thieves were targeting the neighborhood during the workday because they knew all the houses would be empty. Their next door neighbor got his car stolen out of his own carport! But the home alarm and sensors are totally worth it for some peace of mind. It’s not a 100% guarantee that you won’t ever get robbed again – but it definitely reduces your chances.

  170. Hi!People have slashed 70 tires i n one night & broke windows. No one has been caught. One family had 5 tires slashed on 3 different vechicles. Catalytic convertors are sawn right off at my husband’s work in parking lot. It’s not even a big town or bad area. lisa

  171. One thing I didn’t see mentioned – burn copies of your CDs to keep in your car. Then it won’t even matter if they steal your 1920s music.

  172. You got some interesting advice from the woman at the police station that day – to leave your car unlocked. I supposed what she said really made sense. When I got my first new car I ran out to buy “The Club.” What I realized later was that “The Club” only stops “honest thieves” (those who are’t really thieves but who might entertain the notion). A real thief is going to get what he wants, regardless of what he has to do. I’d say you’ve been lucky – even this second time. And, considering how long it has been between incidents, I wouldn’t focus too much on making more changes. Just be glad and continue with a postitive outlook. Besides, maybe you just saved someone from dying of thirst 😉

  173. My grandfather’s strategy involved driving broken-down beaters and leaving them unlocked–sometimes with the key in the ignition. Oh sure, they would get stolen occasionally, but the car thieves always brought them back. It made for great stories.

    Oh, and he never left anything in them that he minded losing.

  174. I would just like to stress the previous advice to keep your car locked. The insurance company will NOT pay a dime if your doors are left unlocked.Alarms don’t work since it’s super easy for them to be silenced quickly.

    Most cities have a “crime map” that will tell you what kinds of crimes have happened in your area. Maybe you are not the only one? I live in Portland and you can see those stats here

  175. You’ve already gotten plenty of good advice–don’t leave anything in plain view, lock your car, etc. I learned my lesson many years ago when someone smashed a back window and stole a box I had lying on the back seat. There was nothing in the box, but I was too lazy to remove it. Well, lesson learned.

    I know it’s impractical, but for fun, I do like the idea of rigging the car so that a net falls on the burglar while s/he’s inside the car, or so that sticky confetti or something sprays out all over the burglar when s/he opens the glove compartment. It would also be fun to rig a decoy package (kept out of view in the trunk, for example), so that red dye sprays out on the burglar when s/he opens it.

    But then, that may incite the burglar to come back and do more damage….!

  176. Try four times in six months. I live in a pretty bad part of an inner city and my car has been ransacked no less than four times since June. It’s frustrating, but I’m comforted in the fact that the thief probably cut his hands on my (already) busted-out window for a handful of pennies.

  177. My little girl’s dad got his car broken into twice in two months. I had been living in a pretty bad neighborhood–and had been there for four years, and nothing had ever happened to his car, despite his parking it in the same spot every time he came over to visit, which as my daughter got older was fairly often.

    We didn’t leave the car unlocked even though the same window was broken both times, because cars have also been stolen out of that neighborhood and it would have been disastrous. If they have to break the window then they know the chances that someone heard them have gone up exponentially and they have to just steal what they were going to steal and get the heck out of there. But if they can open the car door without making noise, they have that much more time to hotwire the thing and get lost. This is more true the closer the car is to your building. Matt’s was pretty close to mine.

    Anyway… I have no answers. The only real answer there in your case, I think, is if the cops will step up patrols in your neighborhood. That will either scare off the thief or will increase the likelihood of him getting caught.

    I can guess why he stole the jumper cables–they’re likely loaded with copper. Copper theft’s a big problem all over the country right now, especially in urban areas, and especially in areas where people use a lot of natural gas–the pipes feeding gas into buildings are usually made of copper.

    Anecdote: My car was stolen back in ’96 or ’97. There were no valuables to speak of in my vehicle, save the collection of coins and one-dollar bills in my ashtray. I had been in the habit of dumping my change in the ashtray since I don’t smoke. It came in handy if I was broke just before payday and needed to fill the tank, back in the days when gasoline was less than a dollar a gallon. *sigh*

    Apparently the kid (it was probably a kid) didn’t smoke, or he flicked ashes out the window. The money was still in the ashtray!

    It kind of made up for the other thing we discovered when we got the car back: the little hooligan had smashed the outer covering of the steering column so he could hotwire the car. Until we replaced the column I spent the next few months having to hotwire my car to start it. Not as complex as it sounds, it was just a button on the side you had to shift, but it was stiff and I got calluses on my thumb.

    In all these cases we were in luck. At the time my car was stolen my then-husband was from a family of mechanics and knew how to replace the column. We went and got one from the junkyard that fit. It was a pain installing it, though–if you aren’t a patient person you’re better off paying someone else to do it. In Matt’s case he knows how to change the door glass in a nineties-era Toyota, which is pretty much what his car was (a Geo Prizm), so he went to a junkyard both times for the replacement window. I feel sorry for people who can’t or won’t go that route and wind up shelling out hundreds and hundreds of dollars every time some jerk messes up their car.

  178. Oh, and speaking of booby traps? I heard once about this car alarm system they put into vehicles with automatic everything. If the car is stolen, the thief only gets a little way down the road and then the car slows down and stops, locks its doors, starts honking the horn and flashing the headlights and running the windshield wipers… pretty crazy stuff. Not sure if it was an urban legend or if it’s so expensive most people can’t afford it. Considering it’s usually middle-class people and below who get their cars broken into in the first place, though… wow, it’d be nice. (Then again, lower-income people who aren’t willing to overextend themselves for the latest and greatest wheels don’t tend to get the cars with automatic everything in the first place, so I guess the benefits would be lost on most of us.)

  179. I’m with Kris – take the steps necessary to render your two-car garage accessible to both cars. The angry feline, while tempting, is bound to have unpleasant repercussions if shut in the car all night – and as for leaving the car unlocked, the LEAST you might look for is to have someone sleep in it. (I’ve had that happen.) Or use it as a toilet. Worse would be to have it stolen. Worst would be to have it used as a hiding place, and forcing you or your wife into it at gunpoint. As for having left checkbooks, etc., in a car – outside – ! I think you’ve already figured out that that was a Bad Idea.

  180. Nthing the notion that the theives were after the copper in the cables.

    I’ve successfully operated a garage door from the 1930’s and another from the ’40s. Manually! It *can* be done! Honest!

  181. Well I should have taken this story as a lesson. Last night our car got broken into and the thieves made off with some valuable tools. I heard the alarm go off, thought it might be some other car on the street, but realized it sounded awfully close. By the time I was out there they had taken off, my neighbors actually got a view of the getaway car. The value is less than my homeowners deductible, so I think were just SOL. We filed a police report, all the tools were engraved so maybe they’ll turn up. I hate how someone can just come and take the things you worked hard for, how can they live with themselves.

  182. Lock the doors, don’t leave anything of value in sight (or out of sight for that matter). Once confronted with these issues, thieves will most likely leave your car and search for greener pastures.

  183. My car was broken into back in March. It was parked in the street in front of my house. They took my satellite radio, stereo unit and my car charger for my cell phone. They missed the expensive stuff in the trunk.

    I wished they had broken the window… Instead, they busted the door lock out of the driver door. The damages were over $1500.

    The most frustrating part was knowing that it happened just outside my window while I was sleeping. If I had been awake, no doubt I would have heard them. Not sure what I would have done if I caught them. Perhaps I would have accosted them holding my BB gun, which looks very real… Or maybe I would have offered them $50 to drop everything and leave.

    Now I ALWAYS park my car in the driveway, and I changed our porch lights out with higher wattages so it lights up the whole front yard and driveway. I try to add as much additional risk to the crime as I can.

  184. The first car I bought was a Triumph Spitfire, and the second was a Fiat 124 Spider. In both cases I always left the car unlocked and nothing of value in the cockpit. I wanted the thief to feel free to climb in, take a look around and leave, just for God’s sake, DON’T CUT THE RAGTOP! 🙂

    Funny how the first car that was a sedan was the one that got broken into. They tried to pry open the trunk, then broke the driver’s window and cut through the back seat to get into the trunk.

    As for your thief, to have been hit that many times it’s probably some neighborhood goof (or nearby neighborhood) that cruises through and knows who the targets are. Putting in a good car alarm is probably enough deterrent.