By Doug Sullivan TADA President | Source: Toronto Star

In April, the Toronto Star published a story about how car thieves have been targeting posh neighborhoods and high-end vehicles.

One thing that struck me about the article is how thieves are targeting vehicles with the latest, high-tech security systems. They’re using sophisticated technology to gain access to electronic devices that can bypass a vehicle’s security system.

Although thieves are becoming more adept at figuring out ways to steal automobiles, the general trend in police-reported motor theft has been declining for the past decade.

According to Statistics Canada, in 2013, motor vehicle theft fell by eight per cent over 2012. Since 2003, motor vehicle theft has declined by 62 per cent across Canada.

Despite this encouraging trend, vehicle owners still need to be proactive to deter auto theft and protect their property. Having your car stolen is an inconvenience in terms of wasted time, dealing with insurance and finding a replacement vehicle.

The other negative impact of auto theft is that it contributes to high insurance rates, for all drivers. Ontario has the highest insurance premiums in Canada.

Whether your vehicle is parked at a condo in Toronto, in a driveway in Timmins or at a shopping centre in Sudbury, no vehicle is immune from being targeted by would-be thieves.

Yes, there are far more vehicle thefts in urban centers than in rural areas and, yes, thieves often target specific models based on their re-sale value on the black market, but no one single make or model is averse to theft.

The best that car owners can do is to take reasonable precautions and use common sense. Not leaving your car running while unattended (in your driveway or at a corner store) would qualify as common sense, and yet people do this all the time.

Based on my experiences and input from industry experts, here are some suggestions to help protect your vehicles and to minimize the risk of car theft.

— Place your key fob in a closed metallic box or in your fridge freezer, which reduces the chance that a thief could override your key’s coded signal.

— Don’t leave registration documents that contain a key code in your glove compartment. Your personal information can be stolen and used for identity theft.

— Remove valet keys from the glove compartments of your vehicles. Sometimes owners will forget that these keys are often in the manual wallet.

— Consider installing security etching, which permanently marks each window of your vehicle with an identification number. This type of deterrent makes it more difficult for thieves to re-sell a vehicle because all of the windows have to be replaced.

— Put valuables out of sight when your car is unattended. Shopping bags, purses and sports gear make easy targets if they are visible.

— Park near similar types of vehicles as yours. Thieves are often looking to fill “steal to order” models, and if several vehicles within close proximity fit that description, odds are reduced that your vehicle will be targeted.

— Keep your car keys in a secure place; don’t hang them on keyboards in the home and make sure they’re not visible through windows.

— Always lock your doors and close your windows when your car is unattended.

— Park your vehicle in well-lit and well-travelled areas.

This column represents the views of TADA. Email or Doug Sullivan, president of the Trillium Automobile Dealers Association, is a new-car dealer in Huntsville, Ont.

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