BOISE – July is Vehicle Theft Prevention Month, and AAA is reminding drivers to take the necessary steps to protect their cars.  A vehicle is stolen every 39 seconds, with passenger vehicles making up 74% of all stolen cars.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, more than 804,000 vehicles were stolen in 2020, costing owners more than $7 billion in losses.  That’s a nearly 12% increase from 2019.  Just 56% of all stolen vehicles are ever recovered.

“Thieves are very good at what they do, so you need to make sure your vehicle isn’t an attractive target,” says AAA Idaho spokesman Matthew Conde.  “Even simple efforts to improve visibility or slow thieves down by just a few seconds could mean the difference between a damaged or stolen vehicle and a thief who moves on to an easier opportunity.”

AAA offers the following tips to help protect your vehicle:

  • Park in well-lit areas. At home, consider adding motion sensors and other security devices.
  • Close and lock all doors and windows when you park. “Preventing quick and silent access is an important part of the plan,” Conde said.  “Not only will you reduce your chances of theft or vandalism, but you’ll also keep children from becoming trapped inside a hot car.”
  • Hide valuables out of sight, such as in the glove box or trunk.
  • Do not leave the keys in or near your car. “If your key fob is stored too close to the vehicle, your car battery will drain faster, and thieves may also be able to start the car and drive away,” Conde said.  “New technology requires new thinking.”
  • Don’t leave the area while your vehicle is running, even for a quick errand.

According to the FBI’s National Crime Information Center, the states with the most stolen vehicles in 2019 were California, Florida, Texas, Georgia, Illinois, North Carolina, Montana, Nevada, Tennessee, and Pennsylvania.

“Most vehicle thefts are crimes of opportunity,” Conde said.  “If yours is stolen, you’ll be in for a very expensive replacement in today’s new and used vehicle market.”