As vehicle technology continues to evolve, car thieves have adapted and refined their tactics. With the rising popularity of keyless entry systems, smart key fobs and push-to-start ignitions, a whole new world of opportunity has opened up for thieves.
According to a recent report from the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB), an average of 209 vehicles are stolen each day because the keys are left inside. Since 2015, the number of vehicles stolen with the keys inside has increased 56%.
A recent stolen vehicle recovery involving a vehicle equipped with the LoJack® System is an interesting example of this trend:
An Issaquah, Washington woman was shopping inside a local grocery store. When she returned to the parking lot a short time later, her vehicle was no longer where she had parked it. She searched the parking lot and was unable to find the vehicle. The woman acknowledged a key fob had been left in the center console and the vehicle had been left unlocked. The theft was immediately reported to the Issaquah Police Department. After verifying the theft, the vehicle was entered as stolen into the state and federal crime computers, automatically activating the LoJack® System concealed in the vehicle.
Approximately one hour later, a trooper with the Washington State Patrol received a signal on the LoJack® Police Tracking Computer (PTC) installed in the patrol vehicle. Utilizing the PTC’s audible and visual signals, the trooper was able to navigate to a residential area in the Issaquah area. He observed the stolen vehicle in the driveway of a residence. The license plates affixed to the vehicle confirmed it was the stolen vehicle. The trooper made contact with an elderly male inside the residence; the male denied the theft and insisted the vehicle belonged to him.
It was ultimately determined the male owned a very similar looking vehicle. He had been shopping at the store as well and had mistakenly entered the victim’s vehicle thinking it was his. The vehicle started with the push button ignition due to the key fob being left inside. He thought nothing of it and drove it home.
Issaquah Police Department responded and assisted with the vehicle recovery and transfer back to its rightful owner. The total time from reported theft to recovery was just under three hours.
Despite this particular example being a comedic misunderstanding, these stories highlight the importance of being mindful of where you place your keys. With today’s advanced vehicle technology, it’s only natural to become complacent. After all, it’s one less thing to worry about.
Key fobs and smart key technology certainly make drivers’ lives more convenient. The downside, however, is that they can also make your vehicle more convenient for the opportunistic car thief. So next time, before you leave the car, double check to make sure you know exactly where your key is—it could be the difference between you leaving in your car and someone else leaving in it. Combine that with always remembering to lock your vehicle, and that can go long way in protecting you against auto theft.
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