Avoid Falling Victim to New Trends in Auto Theft-Related Crime

Criminals may be getting smarter, but H.E.A.T. provides tips to protect drivers from evolving trends

Jul 21, 2014, 09:00 ET from H.E.A.T. (Help Eliminate Auto Thefts)

LIVONIA, Mich., July 21, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- Thefts of entire vehicles are down in Michigan for a sixth consecutive year, but other forms of vehicle-related crime are increasing sharply, according to H.E.A.T. (Help Eliminate Auto Thefts), Michigan's statewide auto theft prevention program.

"As law enforcement becomes more successful, and technology in newer vehicles improves, thieves are coming up with new ways to steal vehicles and target drivers," said Terri Miller, executive director of H.E.A.T. "Drivers need to be aware of the evolving trends in auto theft and the ways they can protect themselves and their vehicles or property. Using common sense and being aware of auto theft trends can prevent you from falling victim to auto theft-related crime."

H.E.A.T. coordinates citizen action with law enforcement agencies through a 24/7, confidential toll-free tip line (1-800-242-HEAT) and website (1800242HEAT.com). H.E.A.T. allows Michigan residents to report information for cash, up to $10,000, on stolen vehicles, chop shops and suspected auto theft activities including insurance fraud, identity theft and carjackings.

In August 2013, the Detroit Police Department – in partnership with the Michigan State Police and H.E.A.T. – enacted the "Heatwave Initiative" with the goal of cutting the number of carjackings in Detroit. Since the implementation of the initiative, and a year after Chief James Craig joined DPD, the city has experienced a 28 percent decline in carjackings.

Despite a decline in carjackings, H.E.A.T. cautions drivers to be aware of the following trends in auto theft-related crimes, including:

  • Car Thieves Targeting Gyms: Opportunistic criminals are watching when gym-goers exit their vehicles and head inside the gym to workout. Criminals either grab keys from the key rack in the gym before driving off with a victim's vehicle, or take advantage of the time they have to steal tires, rims, airbags, navigation systems and other personal property. Remember to bring your keys into the gym and keep them with you, and never leave valuables in plain view. If you must leave something in your vehicle, lock it in the trunk or place items out of sight. 
  • Crowded Parking Lots: Concerts, sporting events and other summer activities bring cars and fill parking lots which attract criminals in search of easy-to-steal property. The next time you visit a crowded area or attend an event downtown, consider parking in a secure, city-owned lot or in a well-lit area with an attendant or heavy pedestrian traffic.
  • Online Fraud: Many thieves are turning to online purchasing sites such as Craigslist.com or local sites like cars4detroit.com as easy outlets for online selling or trading of stolen, cloned or re-tagged vehicles and stolen auto parts. H.E.A.T. reminds consumers that if the deal is too good to be true, it probably is.
  • Unique Strategies: Be aware of the unique strategies some thieves employ. For instance, thieves may rear-end a vehicle at a slow speed to cause minimum damage, and then drive off in your vehicle when you exit your car to check for damage. If it's dark outside or if you aren't visible to other people, avoid getting out of your car. Also, be alert and aware of your surroundings as you approach your vehicle. Avoid talking or texting on cell phones or digging for keys as it can be a distraction and can make you an easy target to criminals.
  • Thefts of Older Vehicles: As technology in newer vehicles improves, criminals are turning to older models and stripping the vehicles for their parts. Arm your car with extra security to help deter criminals, including electronic immobilizers as well as visual and physical deterrents such as steering wheel locks, floorboard and pedal locks, gearshift locks and wheel clamps.
  • Tire and Rim Thefts: An ongoing problem throughout the state, especially in Metro Detroit, is the increase in tire and rim thefts. Thieves typically target easy-to-steal tires and rims, in order to sell them to crooked dealers and repair shops. H.E.A.T. recommends that drivers park in a garage whenever possible or in a parking lot with an attendant.
  • "Push" Steals: Since thieves need your keys to steal newer vehicles, they're switching methods for stealing parts or even entire vehicles. "Push" steals occur when thieves push the vehicle away after forcing entry to release the gears. Often times, thieves push the vehicle to another location where the tires and rims are removed from the vehicle. Arming your vehicle with extra security can help prevent criminals from "pushing" your car.

About H.E.A.T.
H.E.A.T. works with Michigan law enforcement agencies to follow-up on tips. Tipsters are awarded up to $1,000 if the tip leads to the arrest of or issuance of a warrant for a suspected car thief or a person suspected of auto theft-related insurance fraud. H.E.A.T. rewards up to $2,000 for information leading to the issuance of a warrant for a carjacking suspect. Rewards of up to $10,000 are issued if a tip results in the arrest and binding over for trial of a suspected theft ring or chop shop operators. The H.E.A.T. tip line is monitored by the Michigan State Police and funded by Michigan's auto insurance companies.

Follow H.E.A.T. on Facebook and on Twitter @1800242HEAT.

SOURCE H.E.A.T. (Help Eliminate Auto Thefts)