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Practice these common sense tips from police officers and victims to help deter car break-ins and theft.
- Know Your Car
- Warning Devices

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Know Your Car

  1. Know your license plate number.
  2. Know your Vehicle Identification Number.
    • Also called "VIN" – it’s usually found on the dashboard near the steering wheel and also on the engine. (Can’t find it? Ask a friend, family member or trusted mechanic to help you.)
    • WHN TIP: VIN Number

      Write down your VIN and keep it in a safe location such as a safe deposit box or home safe.

  3. Know the year, make, model and color of your car.
  4. Have insurance? Keep a copy of your insurance information in a safe, protected place in your wallet or purse as well as at your office and at home.
  5. If your vehicle is equipped with unique after market items, i.e. custom tires/wheels, after market add-ons, or an after market stereo, keep these receipts and serial numbers handy as well. This will enable you to quickly relay valuable information to law enforcement if your vehicle is stolen.
    • Consider taking photos of these items.
  6. Keep all of this information in one folder.
  7. Prepare a Master Information Box which contains copies of important documents and records, photos and contact information.


  1. Be smart, be safe.
  2. WHN EXPERT TIP: Don't be easy!

    Sounds simple, but thieves look for the easy target. See the video below (2:15) to learn about the crime through the eyes of a thief.

  3. Don’t leave your keys in the car EVER. Always take them with you.
  4. Close car windows.
  5. Lock car doors.
  6. Don’t hide car keys on your car; thieves know where most people hide keys on cars.
  7. Don’t leave valuable or interesting items clearly visible in the car.
  8. Close the roof on a convertible.
  9. Warning devices:
    • Be sure the anti-theft stickers/decals are clearly visible on a car window.
    • If the car doesn’t come equipped with anti-theft alarms installed, consider installing one. Ask a dealership what works best with your car.
    • Consider using a steering wheel lock or brake pedal lock — they'll slow the thief down or act as a deterrent.
  10. Parking
    • Have a garage? Park the car in it; remove valuable items, lock the car. Then lock the garage and entry doors. Don’t leave your car keys in the garage.
    • Street parking? Park in a well-lit area and turn your wheels toward the curb. Remove valuable items, lock the car.
    • Lot parking? Find a lot with an attendant. Remove valuable items, lock the car, leaving only the ignition key with the attendant.
    • Lot parking no attendant? Park near stairs, an elevator or a well-lit area – any high traffic area. Remove valuable items, lock the car tightly.
    • Valet? Leave only the ignition key with the attendant. Remove valuable items.
  11. Your car should look empty inside. ALWAYS remove the following:
    • Cameras (digital, video)
    • CDs/DVDs/DVD or mp3 Players
    • Cellular phone jack/charger
    • Cellular phone
    • GPS systems
    • Occasional/seasonal items: workout gear, coat, sweater, recent shopping purchases
    • Personal identification documents, mail, school addresses, bank receipts or credit cards in your vehicle.
    • PDA/smart phone
    • Purse/wallet
    • Work items (i.e. laptop, carrying case, briefcase)

      WHN EXPERT TIP: Be a hard target

      If there is nothing to see, there's nothing to take. See the video below (2:23) to learn what can make your vehicle a "hard target" that thieves avoid.

  12. If you MUST keep something in the car, keep track of what it is. For instance:
    • Baby seat
    • Maps
    • Pet items
    • Racks for bike/skis/surfboard
    • WHN TIP: Rider for those "must" items

      Check with your insurance company if you travel with a notebook computer, expensive camera or other highly-prized items. You may want to take out a ‘floater’ or ‘rider’ policy to cover these items when they are taken out of your home or office.

      WHN TIP: Itemize those "must" items

      If you have expensive items in your car such as amps, stereos or other items, take pictures of them and note their serial numbers. If they are stolen, it will help substantiate your claim and make it easier to prove ownership.

  13. Remove the face plate from your car stereo when not in use.
  14. Don’t leave your car running with valuables in it while you run in a store to pick something up, no matter how quick the errand or how cold the day.
  15. Don’t store valuables in the trunk.

Need more? Contact your local police department (call the nonemergency number: you can usually find this in the phone book) and ask about car break-ins in your area, how often it happens and what you can do to protect yourself.

Thank you ...

A special thank you to the industry professionals, lawyers, insurance agents, first responders and people who gave us their time, insight and real-life advice.


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Car Break-In

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