There’s a lot to be said for an installer who prides him or herself on doing a quality job. When that job is an ultra-trick, high-end audio system, the results almost always pay off with oohs and aahs from spectators and fellow installers. There’s a clear and audible way to measure the level of work for an auto sound system, but a top notch security install shouldn’t show any visible traces of aftermarket equipment or work.
So, how do installers ever really know how good their installations are as a protective measure against vehicle theft? To answer that question, we went right to the source-convicted automobile and car stereo thieves-to find out how they measure up a car before a hit and how they attempt to get by a security system. Because they know the ins and outs of security systems, they can tell if one is going to pose a challenge.
With help from a correctional officer who works within the criminal court system, we were able to obtain some interesting information.
User-installed devices – Present Little Deterrent
The thieves we spoke with are all repeat offenders, some well into the double digit range. For obvious reasons, their names have been changed. “Once you start ripping off cars, it is so simple and people are so naive that it’s a lot like taking candy from a baby, ” comments one of the convicts. “The problem for most people is that their alarms are extremely predictable.”
The majority of the thieves interviewed feel that 75% of alarms present little or no deterrent. And once in the car, they noted that of those alarms, few would require more than 10 or 15 seconds to disable. While the thieves interviewed operated in and around the Los Angeles area and views from thieves in other cities may vary, its obvious that just having an “alarm” isn’t enough anymore. The installers that are going to excel are those who take a thief’s approach to security and create techniques to circumvent that activity.
Obvious prospects for a hit are cars with no security devices and cars with what we will call “user-installed” items. The user-installed items are things like steering wheel locks, brake pedal locks, fake flashing LED’s, phony alarm numeric keypads, bar locks, etc. The thieves all agreed that the user-installed items, when used without any other type of security device, indicate a minimal investment in both dollars and forethought to provide real protection for the car and its valuables.
These cars are obvious favorites because the user-installed items “are a piece of cake to get past,” one of the thieves says. “That stuff is nothing like the real alarms that are out today. It might have been a deterrent five or 10 years ago,” says one convict known as “Darren” (not his real name), “but the alarms that are out today don’t come with a keypad box anymore and the phony LED’s are usually in a plastic mounting bezel that is totally fake looking.” Darren made his hits almost exclusively on cars with either no security systems or with user-installed items. “I figured those were the easiest ones to hit because I knew I wasn’t going to be in for many surprises.” In fact, all of the thieves agreed that if there was a good chance for surprises, they would pass on the car a great percentage of the time.
Installation Techniques – Increase System’s Effectiveness
Another thief known as “Lyle,” commented that, “I pay attention to where the LED is installed. If it is installed to the extreme left side of the steering column there’s a good chance I’ll be able to find the brain right under the driver’s side dash, either stuffed in there or just zip-tied.” All of the thieves said that LED placement plays a big part in how they evaluate the complexity of a car’s security install. They all agreed that they would think twice about hitting cars with exotic LED placement.
Locating the brain of the security system to disable it is a top priority for these thieves and well-concealed brains are at the top of their unexpected obstacle list. Lyle went on to say that not many of the alarms that he has come across had much if any thought put into them prior to installation. the shortcuts an installer took may well have made the alarm useless.
Other deterrents include radar/microwave sensors, backup batteries, backup self-contained sirens, pain generators and camouflaged wiring/components. If the hit is going to be more in-depth than a “smash and grab,” the thieves will spend the first part of the hit disabling the security system.
Common-Sense Tips for Security Customers
A group of convicted car and car stereo thieves provide the following list of things that make a hit more attractive.
- No alarm-It’s a free-for-all in a car without a security device. Rule #1: Some kind of security device is always necessary.
- Visible aftermarket radio-Most thieves count on a radio and/or other audio components to make a hit worthwhile. Rule #2 Make your components as inconspicuous as possible while you are away from the car.
- Checkbooks/Credit Card left on seats or dash-This one can hurt and preventing it is possible 100% of the time. Rule #3: Don’t leave your banking items in plain sight. Always put them away, or better yet, take them with you.
- Mail-People never realize the consequences of naivete, so they get taken by surprise. A person who starts by taking your stereo may show up at your house for more. Rule #4: Never leave mail, billing statements, etc., where a thief can make off with them and use them later. Also, store your registration card in a less obvious place than the glove box.
- Spare Keys-This one should be obvious. Rule #5 Don’t make a thief’s job easier by leaving keys to your home, car, etc., lying around. If you’re going to do that, you may as well leave a six-pack on ice for him in case he gets thirsty.
- CDs, Laptops, Cells Phones and MP3 players-If the thief doesn’t like your taste in music, it’s easy enough for him to turn your hardware into cash. Rule #6: Don’t leave valuables in plain view period. It’s just too tempting for a thief especially with today’s smart phones fetching hundreds of dollars on the black market.
- Trunk access-An easy way for a thief to grab even more. Rule #7 Keep your trunk free of expensive goods while you are away from it.