According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics (www.ojp.usdoj.gov) over three quarters of all crimes in the U.S. are made up of property crimes and certainly automobile theft is among the most prevalent. Automobiles are easier targets than homes in many cases as they are high dollar items, in high demand, and can be driven away within seconds leaving behind virtually no clues as to the identity of the thief.
Although manufacturers have continued to provide basic automotive security features, additional measures are needed as thieves continue to adapt to devices on the market.
For first time buyers unfamiliar with the options, the decisions related to purchasing an automotive security system can be daunting. However, there are a core set of features that should be considered which will help consumers select an effective system with less frustration.
o An automotive security system should provide a first line of defense that warns would be intruders that a particular vehicle is protected. Some type of visual reminder such as a flashing light on the dash or stickers that indicate security are simple deterrents.
o A second line of defense is audible alerts; sirens and alarms that sound when a breach is attempted. This security feature brings unwanted attention to the break in and slows the thief down in attempts to eliminate the sound. These should be sufficiently sensitive and should detect any breach. They should trigger when windows are broken, doors are opened, the hood is raised, and so forth. Motion detectors and infrared sensing are common. A good siren will continue to operate even when power from the battery is cut off in attempt to eliminate the warning. Some of the best automotive security systems will also notify the owner when a breach occurs so that they can check on the vehicle or notify law enforcement.
o Another feature of an effective automotive security system is an immobilizer or kill switch to shut off the ignition/starter or perhaps the fuel pump. Certainly, such features make driving off with the car extremely difficult. Some systems will even lock the hood when activated to prevent access to the engine and other mechanical components. At this point it is also important to consider that a device that is located so that it is difficult for thieves to find and disable can be critical as well as this can additionally delay the thief.
o As thieves have continued to adapt to newer automotive security systems, higher tech methods are employed to gain access to vehicles. Code rolling is an excellent feature that prevents thieves from picking up the codes used to gain entry to the car by using a type of code grabbing device. Code rolling changes the codes used by a driver’s keyless entry device each time it is used.
o Another option to consider is a tracking system. As far as automotive security systems are concerned these are not a deterrent but a retrieval system. This type of security system allows a vehicle to be tracked and recovered if it is stolen. Some systems are activated only once law enforcement is notified but ideally the system would activate immediately once the car is taken. Some of these systems will notify the owner by e-mail, pager, or phone when the car is moved.
o A final consideration when purchasing an automotive security system is how effective it will be in avoiding annoying false alarms. Some systems can have the sensitivity adjusted to keep false alarms to a minimum while others are able to identify malfunctioning sensors and shut them down until repaired. Newer automotive security systems also offer dual zone sensing which produce only a small chirping alarm for minor occurrences, such as a bump on the side of the car versus a full blown alarm for more intrusive occurrences.
Certainly cars are a significant investment that is attractive to amateur as well as professional car thieves but consumers can tilt the odds significantly in their favor with the addition of an up-to-date automotive security system.