Don't Be a Victim: How You Can Avoid a Car Break-In

This Macaroni Kid publisher learned the hard way what attracts a thief to your car

By Heather McCloskey, publisher of Macaroni Kid Fort Mill-Tega Cay-Rock Hill, S.C. March 15, 2019

As usual, I was running late. 

So when I parked in the lot next to where my son was playing basketball, I hopped out, hit the lock button, and made a beeline inside. 

That's when I made a huge mistake -- I left my purse right on the passenger seat.

When my daughter and I returned to the car, she asked a question that stopped me in my tracks.

"Why is there ice all over the car?" she said.

My heart stopped. It wasn't ice. It was broken glass. Someone had broken my window, reached in, and stolen my purse. 

I started to shake. I called my husband. Then I called 911.

It turned out I was lucky -- though I certainly didn't feel that way. The robber only got away with $80 in cash, along with my wallet, a $37 gas card, and my favorite designer purse. 

The lot I was parked in had a security camera and police later showed me the video. The guy who broke into my car was a pro. He kept his car at an angle so that his license plate could not be seen on any cameras. He kept his sweatshirt hood up and his sunglasses on.

I know my situation is not unique. The police told me so-called "smash and grabs" happen in places people don't expect -- like in the parking lot I was parked in. They also don't just happen after dark. They do happen to a lot of people: A 2015 report from the FBI indicates thefts from motor vehicles accounted for 24 percent of all larceny-thefts and that only 21 percent of larceny-thefts are ever solved.

So, what can we all do to protect ourselves from a car theft crime like this? 

The Parker Police Department in Colorado offers three common sense tips to lessen the chances your car will be chosen by a thief:

1. Park in a well-lit area when possible

The closer to the building you are entering, the better. Also, avoid parking next to a spot that is isolated or where concealment is possible -- such as a fence or foliage.

2. Lock your doors 

Always! Also always make sure your car windows are all the way up. Securing your car won’t deter a determined thief, but it will make the process harder for them, which means they might choose to just move on. Also consider an anti-theft alarm for your car, though Parker Police say a car thief, who can break into your car and be gone again in as little as 30 seconds, isn't always deterred by a car alarm. 

3. Keep your car tidy

That pair of sunglasses that you leave on the dash? That bag in the passenger seat? The suction cup ring on your windshield that indicates an electronic device was hanging there? Even if the item is actually worthless or isn't there, the thief doesn't know that -- until he's already broken into your car to steal from you.

While it just takes a moment to smash and grab valuables from your car, the feelings of anxiety, fear and worry following a robbery like this can last much longer! I like to think that most people in this world are good. However, there are some bad ones out there and I hope that my story reminds busy moms everywhere to take common-sense precautions to help avoid being the next victim of a car break-in.

Heather McCloskey is the publisher of Macaroni Kid Fort Mill-Tega Cay-Rock Hill, S.C.