July is Vehicle Theft Prevention Month, an opportune time for the Virginia State Police Help Eliminate Auto Theft (HEAT) program to remind motorists to take their keys or take their chances.
According to the 2015 Crime in Virginia report, 40 percent of the 8,103 motor vehicle thefts reported to VSP in 2015 occurred between June and September. July had the most motor vehicle thefts (909), with August (879), September (746) and June (721) following closely behind.
The consensus among law enforcement is that a significant number of vehicles reported stolen have the keys inside. The HEAT program teaches a three-layered approach to auto theft prevention, and taking your keys is part of Layer 1. While this advice may seem like common sense to many, it’s a recommendation that often falls on deaf ears.
“You should never leave keys in an unattended vehicle,” said First Sgt. Steve Hall, HEAT program coordinator said. “You’d be amazed at the number of people who walk away from their vehicles, engines running, windows down. You want to make it more difficult for thieves, not easier.”
HEAT Special Agent Peter Lazear agrees. “Put as many barriers as you can between yourself and a potential theft,” he said. “After taking your keys, Layer 2 encourages motorists to install audible or visible deterrents, such as VIN etching.”
Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) etching is a process in which a vehicle’s 17-digit, federally assigned VIN is permanently marked into a vehicle’s exterior auto glass.
“The theory with VIN etching,” Lazear said, “is if someone were to steal your car, they couldn’t sell it for parts until removing or replacing the auto glass, which can be costly.”
The HEAT program conducts several no-cost VIN etching events each year. Find a list of events at HEATreward.com.
The final layer of auto theft prevention encourages motorists to use technology, including immobilizing and tracking devices, to aid in prevention.
“There’s a lot of technology readily available,” Lazear said. “And just the thought that you might have a tracking device on your car could deter a thief.”