Holiday Car Theft?


By Zach Schepis

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

There are a number of feasible explanations to justify it. People are spending their time warm and indoors–they never notice. A few too many drinks, the lulling blare of endless football games streaming from the television, and a comfy recliner that begs to be loafed upon.

All the while, a stranger is outside working his stiff fingers in the cold. It doesn’t take long to hotwire a vehicle, to chain it up and tow it away, or to break the glass and forage for the hidden set of keys inside.

Before you know it, the once hilarious words from a favorite stoner comedy take a decidedly darker, more personal turn.

“Dude. Where’s my car?”

A new report surfaced from the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) revealing car theft statistics from last year. Accordingly, of the 708,909 hijackings that occurred, New Year’s Day was the favorite among car thieves who decided to commit crimes during the holidays.

“We know that thieves never miss an opportunity to make a quick buck by stealing a car,“ President and CEO of NICB Joe Wehrle told the NY Daily News. “They work weekends, nights, and holidays and ironically, they are particularly busy on New Year’s Day and Labor Day.”

Perhaps it’s possible to uncover a correlation between a common “thief mentality” and the holiday one chooses to strike. For instance, maybe the Christmas spirit is enough to soften the hearts of the most deplored criminals. Taking a look at the data, Dec 25 is marked the lowest number of auto thefts amongst any of the major holidays. Not surprisingly, the night of Halloween mischief was the second worst.

In case you were wondering the about the exact rank and statistics, here’s a complete list of the 2013 holidays and their corresponding car thefts:

1. New Year’s Day (2,184)

2. Halloween (1,998)

3. Memorial Day (1,972)

4. Labor Day (1,915)

5. President’s Day (1,894)

6. Christmas Eve (1,774)

7. Valentine’s Day (1,757)

8. Independence Day (1,750)

9. New Year’s Eve (1,715)

10. Thanksgiving (1,353)

11. Christmas Day (1,224)

The NICB offered their best speculation as to why the figures might make sense.

“Perhaps thieves ate too much turkey on Thanksgiving and Christmas,” they reasoned in a recent press release accompanying the scientific study.

Fun fact? Well, perhaps fun is not the right word, but the most popular day to steal a car in America last year was Aug 12–which saw 2,316 vehicles absconded with.

Trying to crack the ever elusive thief mentality (if there even is such a thing) might prove fruitful after first examining the list of the most stolen vehicle models from 2011.

The top five are as follows:

1.1994 Honda Accord

2.1995 Honda Civic

3.1991 Toyota Camry

4.1999 Chevrolet Pickup (Full Size)

5.1997 Ford F150 Series/Pickup

So, according to the gold, silver, and bronze rankings, apparently car-jackers have an affinity for Japanese made automobiles. For domestic cars, meanwhile, the complete list shows that Ford takes the American cake.

It would be interesting to see each of the major corporate leaders in the industry respond to the data. Should Ford take these staggering figures as a compliment, pointing out that the demand for their vehicles is so great people must own them at any cost (or lack thereof, for that matter)? Or does the data point to security deficiencies in design?

Either way, the findings prove quite telling. You would cry too if it happened to you, as the song goes, but you don’t have to let this travesty ruin your excitement for occasions like New Year’s or Halloween. Although national vehicle thefts have been declining steadily for close to a decade, maintaining vigilance around such times of the year should certainly be executed.

“There is always a black market for the items obtained by theft, and vehicles remain popular theft targets,” an NICB spokesperson told Forbes.

So what can you do to ensure the safety of your vehicle?

The first piece of advice is to leave your car in plain sight. More often than not, traffic lights will have cameras installed in them to record license plates of those caught speeding. Plus, a thief is much less likely to steal a car in a populated and well-lit area.

The next parcel of wisdom is to always carry your keys on you. NEVER leave an extra pair lying around in your vehicle. Even if you think you’re the Houdini of secret hiding places, there’s always someone better. And you’d hate to be one-upped by their disappearing act.

Lastly use a combination of tactics to slow down potential thieves. We’ve all heard the endless wailing of car alarms and most likely don’t bat an eye, but they’re not the only preventative measure that can be taken. When used alongside other strategies–like applying the emergency break or turning the wheel hard all the way and setting the car to “park” or in gear–a thief will naturally try to work faster and might give up after hitting too many roadblocks.

No pun intended, of course.