*There is a podcast on this subject should you prefer to listen rather than read. You can listen to it HERE.
The reason I write this is two fold. First, if you adhere to the following advice, you will dramatically decrease your chances of falling victim to a vehicle break in. Second, if you do become a victim, you will know what to expect and how to make your life (and that of the officer's) much simpler. To be clear: this IS NOT a complaint about unwitting civilians wasting police officers' time. It IS a guide to help people prevent crime and know how to report it.
Preventing yourself from becoming a victim is obviously the best option. Here are two rules that will almost never fail to keep your car and your stuff safe.
Rule #1 - Doors Locked || Nothing Visible
Doors Locked -- Why do cars have locks on their doors? It's not to keep them from getting stolen, at least not anymore. Nowadays, they are much more difficult to "hot wire." Sure, with the right technological wizardry, one can highjack even a high dollar car, but most regular criminals don't have the knowledge or brainpower to figure it out. The locks on our doors are only there to protect the valuable items we often leave in our vehicles. So, when you park your car, lock your doors. It sounds so simple, yet hundreds if not thousands of police officers respond to vehicle break ins every morning where the victim just didn't lock their stinking doors.
Nothing Visible -- Anything that even implies there might be valuable items in your car should be hidden. Obviously leaving laptops, phones, GPS units and other electronic items out in the open is asking to get your window broken; but leaving a jacket on the floorboard is just as dangerous. Is that coat covering up a sweet Macbook? Let's find out. CRASH!!! There goes your window only for the thief to figure out, nope, just a coat... oh well. Backpacks, shoe boxes, charge cables; anything that could hold, cover up or be used with a valuable item should not be visible.
Rule #2 - Doors Unlocked || Nothing Valuable
Some of you will never be able to leave your doors unlocked. Maybe you've always got something valuable in the car, or maybe you drive a BMW and you don't want some shmuck messing up the upholstery just for the heck of it. If that's you, stick to rule #1. For those of you who drive a beater and don't have expensive stuff lying around, it might be best to just leave the doors unlocked. This way, even the dumbest of criminals will likely just open the door, see there's no loot, and move on.
Prepare for the Worst
These two simple rules will almost never fail you; but as they say, plan for the worst, hope for the best. If you do become a victim, the following tips will help you recover your stuff, get a refund from insurance, and file a police report. But be careful, the officer taking your report might give you a big, spontaneous kiss just for being so prepared and efficient.
Record Serial Numbers -- Anything electronic will typically have a serial number. Guns have serial numbers. They are there for a reason. WRITE THEM DOWN! If you don't, the police will not be able get your stuff back or make an arrest and you will only have yourself to blame.
Create a List -- Before you call the police, write down everything that was stolen, its value (you need to find receipts or other proof), and the serial number. I know it sounds like a pain, but this is what the police will ask for when they show up. If you do it ahead of time, it means the officer will be back on the street to fight crime in 10 minutes instead of an hour and a half. And don't forget, you might get an impromptu kiss just for being awesome!
Identify the Owner -- The victim of the crime is the owner of the stuff stolen from the car. If the vehicle was damaged, the victim of that crime is the owner of the car. Often times this means there are two victims (Example: John's car window was broken and Amy's iPad was stolen). Again, before the police are called, have the personal information ready for anyone who has become a victim in the crime. You will need the vehicle's registration information, victim drivers license(s) and phone numbers at the very least. Have this ready and in hand when the police show up.
Lock Up Your Guns -- If you travel with a gun, take it out of your vehicle or make sure the bad guys can't. You don't want to find out someday that your gun, with the ammo you put in it, killed an innocent person or police officer. There are all kinds of vehicle safes that can be mounted in your car to keep things locked up and they are much cheaper than someone's life.
Back Up Your Stuff -- Sometimes there's just no way around leaving really important stuff in your car. Laptops are expensive, but the information on your hard drive may be irreplaceable. Make sure you have your important information backed up in a place where it won't end up getting stolen along with the computer. If you're backed up to a flash drive, fine. Just don't store it in the car with your computer. When you find your window broken out, they will likely both be gone along with all of your work, pictures, receipts and... well, you get the picture.
The police can't prevent you from becoming a victim. Asking for extra patrol is like asking a fire truck to drive past your house at night in case it catches on fire. It's not going to help. There aren't nearly enough officers on patrol to keep you from becoming a victim and catch the bad guys in the act. Your best bet is to follow rules #1 and 2. These will keep you safe 98% of the time. For the remaining 2%, if you've prepared by recording serial numbers and saving receipts, you'll have no trouble getting your stuff back or getting a refund from insurance.
If you haven't done your part, let's be realistic: your stuff is gone, the police aren't going to arrest anyone and your insurance may not cover all of the damages. That is the unfortunate but very real truth of the matter; a truth most people aren't aware of. Share this with someone you love before it's too late for them.
And as always...
Do Good || Be Strong || Fear Nothing