To Prevent Car Thefts, Take Your Damn Keys With You

Illustration for article titled To Prevent Car Thefts, Take Your Damn Keys With You

Modern cars come with an array of anti-theft devices to help prevent thieves from taking your ride. But the criminals are coming up with new ways to steal cars, such as waiting for lazy owners to leave their keys in the ignition while they get coffee.


According to a new report by the National Insurance Crime Bureau, thefts of cars with keys in the ignition, or “freebies” as thieves call them, are up 31 percent over the past three years. In 2015, 57,096 thefts were reported, though the NICB suggests that these numbers are artificially low because many people don’t admit that their car was stolen with the keys inside. As many as one in eight car thefts may happen because the keys are in the car.

Many car thieves looking for an easy target are scoping out coffee shops, convenience stores, and residences, just waiting for people who leave their car running for a short time or to warm up on a cold day.

NICB President and CEO Joe Wehrle, says the increase in thefts comes down to complacency and laziness: “Anti-theft technology has had a tremendous impact on reducing thefts over the past 25 years, but if you don’t lock it up, it’s not going to help.”

Even more concerning is what happens once the thief has access to your car.

“Complacency can lead to a huge financial loss and inconvenience for the vehicle owner. Leaving a vehicle unlocked or with the key or FOB inside gives a thief the opportunity to take not only the car, but also any possessions inside. It can also provide access to your personal information if the registration is left in the glove compartment....“We have reports from our law enforcement partners that car thieves have stolen the car, driven it to the residence and burglarized the home before the owner even knew the vehicle was missing.”

The NICB offers common sense precautions to prevent theft, while these should be obvious over 147,000 people from 2013-2015 didn’t follow them.

So the next time you are just going to run in for a quick caffeine fix and think your car will be just fine if you leave it running, remember these tips:

  • Lock the vehicle, set the alarm and take all keys or FOBS.
  • Do not leave the garage door opener in the vehicle.
  • Take a picture of your registration on your cell phone and do not leave the registration or other papers with personal information in the vehicle.

No matter how sophisticated your anti-theft technology is, if a professional thief wants your car they will probably get it. But there’s no excuse for your car being stolen simply because you left your keys behind.

Tom is a contributing writer for Jalopnik and runs He saves people money and takes the hassle out of buying or leasing a car. (


The Crazy Kanuck; RIP Oppositelock

Not in North Ontario in the middle of winter. When it’s -40 you need to leave it idling, getting into a cold car is no fun. I’ve seen a parking lots full of car idling some days.