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Car Crime Census 2013: How to beat the thieves

It's a sad fact that car crime is still a big problem across the UK. Despite increasingly advanced car security systems, modern car thieves will always be able to steal a car if they're determined enough. Organised gangs, stealing cars to order will have a match for the latest technology, while opportunist thieves will go for the easy option - leave you a window half down with a sat nav on show and you're asking for trouble.

So how can you beat the thieves? It's not rocket science but you'd be surprised how many people who are victims of car crime don't follow these simple suggestions:

Make sure your car is locked

Yes that's it. Surely the most obvious thing in the world you'd imagine. But you'd be amazed at how many people have forgotten to lock their car - even when it's parked on their driveway - only to come down in the morning and find their iPod taken from the glovebox. However, it's all to easily done. You're in a rush, you've got handfuls of shopping and it's raining. So you get in the house, put the kettle on and simply forget to lock your car.

If you have a car with automatic folding mirrors it's a great visual way of checking whether it's locked or not, but nothing beats the reassurance of going out before you head to bed and double checking that you've locked it.

Don't leave your car keys by the door  - and hide the spare

We've all heard the stories of people using coat hanger wire to fish car keys through a letterbox from a hallway table, yet most of us think it will never happen to us. But car thieves will always go for the easiest route - and that involves having the keys. After all there's no need to force doors or break windows then. They simply get in and drive away. So don't leave your car keys on display - even the spare. A burglars favourite method of escapewill be your car. They can fill it with your belongings and simply drive off, so hide the spare key too.

Many people have their car keys and house keys on the same keyring, so will lock the front door and leave their keys hanging in the lock. This makes it even easier for thieves to hook them from the letterbox.

It's even been know for thieves to simply open the unlocked front door of a house, pick up the car keys conveniently hanging in the hallway and drive away. All while the owners are in the house. In the summer, when most of us are in the garden, this is even easier.

Don't leave valuables on display

Despite all the posters and notices at car parks, it's amazing how many people will leave valuables on display. Bags, sat navs, wallets - they're all adverts for thieves that there's something worth stealing. Even if you have a bag with nothing in it - the temptation is still there for a thief - so hide it away. The criminal may get away with nothing, but you'll have a broken window and all the cost and inconvenience of replacing it.

The sucker mark of a sat nav holder on the windscreen is another sign for thieves. And how many of us actually take our sat navs with us when we leave the car. And if a thief sees you have a sat nav they'll think you're more likely to have things like iPods.

Places like cinema car parks are prime places for thieves to break into cars. After all once you're parked up, the car thief know you'll be gone for a couple of hours so can work on breaking into your car without worrying about you returning.

Park it somewhere safe - preferably your garage

Not everyone has a garage but if you do - and you want to keep your car safe - then use it. Criminals don't want the hassle of breaking into a garage to then steal a car. They'll always go for the easy option. Garaging your car also means cheaper insurance.

Of course if you're away from home or out for the day you don't have that luxury. So always look for a secure and well-lit car park. Multi storeys can be a double-edged sword. They're often lit and covered by security cameras so in theory are more secure, but they also provide excellent cover for thieves.

Try and park in a busy part of the car park, near an entrance or exit. Leaving your car down the end of a row, up against a wall on its own means a thief can break into it without having to worry about anyone seeing them.

Make sure it has an alarm and immobiliser

There's an assumption that all modern cars have an alarm and engine immobiliser as standard but that's not the case. Cheaper cars will come with neither so it's worth investing in a decent alarm. Thieves don't want to draw attention to themselves and although there's the myth than no one pays attention to car alarms anymore - if you hear a car alarm in the middle of the night, the chances are you'll be looking through the bedroom curtains to see what's going on.

If you have an expensive car it's worth investing in extra car security. There are plenty of system on the market and plenty of firms around that will fit them for you. And if you've got something particularly high end or desirable, it's worth investing in a vehicle tracking system, the best known being Tracker.

See also: Top 10 Cars Stolen to order / Top 10 Most Stolen Cars / Crime homepage

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