Alertness may protect your car, holiday gifts

By: Eric Czarnik | Sterling Heights Sentry | Published November 23, 2015

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Drivers can keep a thief from taking away their Christmas cheer through proper safeguarding of vehicles and their contents this holiday season, according to police.

Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard said thieves tend to smash into car windows to reach inside and grab anything valuable that they see. He warned people to never leave their holiday packages exposed in a vehicle. If possible, lock gifts in a trunk or in a covered hatchback trunk, or at least hide the valuables under objects on the vehicle floor.

“We know that a lot of criminal activity picks up around the holidays because criminals know that people tend to carry and use more cash as they go on with their shopping,” he said.

Bouchard said shoppers should also be situationally aware when exiting a vehicle, and they should know their surroundings around where they park. If it’s nighttime, drivers should try to park under a bright light. 

“If you are alone, make sure that you carry yourself with confidence,” he said. “Lock your car immediately when you get out.”

Another tool that can keep a vehicle and its contents safe over the holiday season is a car alarm.

According to Glenn Collins, president of Car Sound & Alarms in Madison Heights, many newer cars have factory alarms installed, but those don’t tend to detect vibrations, glass breakage or motion inside the vehicle. Instead, the factory alarms typically only activate if someone opens a door, he said.

“Most thieves know that if you break the windows, as long as you don’t open the door, you can take anything you want,” he said.

Besides a horn or siren, some alarms are equipped with two-way features that can alert an auto owner via a phone app or key fob transmitter if a vehicle has been disturbed or unlocked, Collins said. 

“If someone banged your door, it would send you a signal and let you know,” he explained.

Some alarm-related apps even come with vehicle tracking or set up “geo-fences” that send alerts if the vehicle leaves a defined area, Collins said.

Bouchard said car alarms usually at least draw looks by others in the vicinity. 

“It does draw attention to your car,” he said. “One thing that criminals don’t like is attention.”

Also, Bouchard said holiday drivers should prepare in advance for messy or snowy weather by checking to make sure that their vehicles’ tires have traction and that the battery works. 

Drivers should also stock their vehicles with emergency supplies in case they get stranded in the cold, and they should carry a cellphone, Bouchard said. Even an old phone that’s not under a contract plan is still required under FCC law to let users dial 911, he added.

Learn more about Car Sound & Alarms in Madison Heights by visiting carsoundalarms.com or by calling (248) 583-7775. Find out more about the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office by visiting www.oakgov.com/sheriff.

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