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THE SAFETY ZONE | TODAY'S TIP

Be Aware and Take Some Simple Precautions to Lessen the Risk of Theft of Your Vehicle

May 22, 2000

One vehicle is stolen every 20 seconds in the United States. According to the National Citizen Crime Prevention Campaign, stolen cars, vans, trucks and motorcycles cost victims time and money--and increase insurance premiums. Stolen vehicles also are often used to commit other crimes. Here are some tips to avoid being a victim:

* Never leave your car running or the keys in the ignition when you're away from it, even for "just a minute."

* Always roll up the windows and lock the car, even if it's in front of your home.

* Never leave valuables in plain view, even if your car is locked. Put them in the trunk or at least out of sight.

* Buy radios, tape and CD players that can be removed and locked in the truck.

* Park in busy, well-lighted areas.

* Carry the registration and insurance card with you. Don't leave personal identification documents or credit cards in your vehicle.

* When you pay to park in a lot or garage, leave just the ignition key with the attendant. Make sure no personal information is attached. Do the same when you take your car in for repairs.

* Etch the Vehicle Identification Number on the windows, doors, fenders, and truck lid. This helps discourage professional thieves who have to either remove or replace etched parts before selling the car. Copy that number and your tag number on a card and keep it in a safe place. If your vehicle is stolen, the police need this information.

* Investigate security systems if you live in a high-theft area or drive an automobile that's an attractive target for thieves. You may get a discount on your auto insurance.

* Look into CAT (Combat Auto Theft) and HEAT (Help Eliminate Auto Theft) partnership programs where individuals voluntarily register their cars with the police, and allow the police to stop the car during certain hours when they normally would not be driving (such as midnight to 5 a.m.). All participants display decals in a designated area on their vehicles.

* If your car is stolen, report it to the police immediately. Also, report abandoned cars to the local agency that handles their removal.

* When buying a used car from an individual or a dealer, make sure you have the proper titles, that the VIN number is intact, and the "federal sticker" is on the inside of the driver's door. That sticker should match the VIN.

* Suggest that any dealer, rental car agency, or auto repair shop you use offer auto theft prevention information in the waiting rooms.

Source: National Citizen Crime Prevention Campaign

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