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Safety Tip – Auto Theft


To a thief, there’s nothing like a car. It’s self-propelled and fully equipped for a fast getaway. The car and most especially its components, are items in steady demand.

The owner or authorized driver of a car should not leave the vehicle unattended without locking the ignition and removing the key. A significant number of automobiles are stolen because drivers fail to remove ignition keys. In cold weather days, when warming your car up, try to keep an eye on it. If you have a spare key, lock the doors while it’s running.


All family members should know how to protect their car against theft. Licenses, insurance cards or other identifying papers that a thief could misuse should never be left in the car. Keys should be carefully guarded. If the keys have punch-out numbers, these should be removed and kept at home for reference in case of loss.


The Spotswood Police Department recommends the following precautions:

  • Park in well-lighted areas
  • Close all windows, lock all doors
  • Activate any anti-theft device you may have
  • Put valuables out of sight
  • If you park in a commercial garage, leave the attendant your ignition key only
  • Keep license and registration in your wallet or purse. If these items are left in the vehicle, thieves can use these documents to sell your car if it’s stolen, or impersonate you when they are challenged by police. Owners who indiscriminately leave keys, titles or other identifiable material in their vehicles may return home to find they are victims of a burglary.
  • If you have a garage, use it. Lock the vehicle and the garage.


Identification of stolen vehicles after they have been recovered continues to be a problem for car owners, police and auto insurers.

Today, in spite of wide-spread use of identification numbers on automobiles and component parts, ownership is often difficult to prove because experienced thieves are increasingly removing manufacturer’s identification numbers completely. The Spotswood Police Department recommends, therefore, that each motorist inscribe the car with the Vehicle Identification Number.

Etch the Vehicle Identification Number in several hard to find spots, using an engraving tool. Write your name in crayon under the hood or trunk.

If your vehicle is stolen, the police will need specific information to identify the car, parts and accessories. Take the time to record detailed information. If a car thief has replaced your license plates, altered the Vehicle Identification Number or repainted the car, other points of identification will be available.

If your car becomes the victim of a chop shop (the place where component parts are stripped off a stolen vehicle) at least the police have a better chance of recovering all or part of your car and arresting the thief.


In order to secure your car, a number of devices are available for installation to deter or prevent theft of the car, parts or contents. These devices include special locks and alarm systems.


Proper maintenance of your vehicle will prevent breakdowns, thereby avoiding vulnerable situations. A cellular phone offers a degree of protection by providing outside contact in case of an emergency.

Check the following items on a routine basis:

  • tire pressure and wear
  • oil and brake fluid levels
  • battery fluid
  • radiator water level
  • screwdriver
  • pliers
  • flares
  • flashlight
  • jack/spare tire
  • jumper cables
  • change for pay telephone
  • lubricant for locks
  • lock de-icer
  • lug wrench
  • auto insurance card
  • first aid kit and blanket
  • phone number for a 24-hour towing and repair service.
Ed Schapley