Holiday shopping brings increase in car thefts, Va. PSA warns

WASHINGTON — If you went to the movies this weekend in Virginia, you may have seen the state’s newest attempt to keep you and your car together. It’s a public service announcement reminding motorists to protect their cars from theft this holiday season.

The PSA aired in movie theaters in the Hampton, Norfolk, Lynchburg and the metro-Richmond areas.

It was launched this weekend because, traditionally, the kickoff to the holiday shopping season also sees an increase in car thefts. Last year, 23 cars were stolen on Black Friday alone in Virginia.

Unfortunately, according to police, some people make their cars a more tempting target.

“Some of the things people do that they are not aware of is, if you go holiday shopping and you have a lot of shopping bags, you put them in the car and leave them in plain sight. Or you might leave valuables, something as simple as a car chargers or a sunglasses case lets thieves know, ‘Hey, there’s something valuable in this vehicle,'” said Joron Planter, public relations coordinator for the Help Eliminate Auto Theft Program (HEAT) with Virginia State police.

There’s also a spike on those cold days when people turn on their cars to warm them up while they’re still in the house.

“You should try to avoid turning the car on and warming it up and leaving it unattended,” Planter said. “Even if you have it locked there’s still going to be to someone who wants to steal your vehicle because more than likely you’re going to have the keys in the ignition.”

Statistics from the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) state that nearly one in four vehicles stolen in Virginia have the keys inside, which is why the HEAT program recommends the following safety tips for this holiday season:

  •  Take your keys and lock your doors every time you leave your vehicle.
  •  Never leave valuables in plain sight in your vehicle. Place them in the trunk or somewhere out of sight.
  • Be aware of your surroundings when out and about.
  • Park in well-lit areas.
  • Invest in an audible or visible deterrent.
  • Install GPS or other tracking devices.

When it comes to a visible deterrent, HEAT offers a free vehicle VIN etching program in Virginia where they etch the vehicle VIN number in all major pieces of glass on the vehicle. It will make a thief think twice before stealing a vehicle as it will be more costly to replace all the glass on the vehicle to remove the VIN.

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