Car Break In

What Car Thieves Look For and What You Can Do

Preventing St. Louis Car Theft

Not unique to St. Louis Car theft is a national problem, strategies below will help reduce your risk anywhere you drive.

In 2017, there were 773,139 car thefts nationwide, an increase of 6,000 cars over the previous year. Missouri is in the top ten for most cars stolen by state, and two Missouri cities are in the top ten cities.

Modern security systems are helping deter car theft, with car thefts topping 950,000 in 2008, but you can further minimize your risk by understanding what thieves look for and how they think, and by taking proactive steps to keep your car safe.

Most Susceptible Locations for Car Theft

The National Insurance Crime Bureau found that car thefts in 2017 were most prevalent in the West but there are few Missouri cities that make the list:

  1. Albuquerque, New Mexico
  2. Anchorage, Alaska
  3. Pueblo, Colorado
  4. Redding, California
  5. Joseph, Missouri
  6. Bakersfield, California
  7. Modesto, California
  8. Stockton-Lodi, California
  9. Yuba City, California
  10. Springfield, Missouri

No matter what area of the country you live in, the odds of having your car stolen are highest in urban areas. Dark, secluded places are also prime sites favored by thieves because they can work undisturbed.

These include parking garages, shopping centers, large apartment complexes and anywhere large groups of cars are parked together for extended periods of time. Areas like these offer choice and also make it easier for thieves to see and hear when people are coming.

8 Ways to Prevent Car Theft

Now that you know what car thieves look for and where they prefer to do their work, what can you do to protect your car? Common sense tips can help:

  1. Lock your car, even when at home or stopping for quick errands. Double check that the doors are locked before walking away.
  2. Never leave your car running and unattended. It’s an open invitation for thieves.
  3. Never leave valuables in plain sight where they might tempt a passerby. Even bags and blankets on the car seat or floor may tempt thieves because those items could be concealing something of value. It’s best to move them out of view and to keep the interior of your car tidy.
  4. Close all windows and the sunroof when you’re not in the car. A window left open, even just a crack, may provide the entry point a thief needs to break in.
  5. Park in well-lit areas.
  6. Don’t keep a spare key in or around your car. Thieves know exactly where to look for them.
  7. Invest in an anti-theft system if you don’t already have one installed in your car. Options range from steering wheel locks and car alarms to electronic immobilizers and kill switches that prevent the car from being hot-wired.
  8. You can also have an electronic tracking system installed that will be activated if your car is stolen, allowing law enforcement to trace its location for a faster recovery.


Certain anti-theft systems can be easy to acquire. For instance, you can get a steering wheel lock at your local Walmart or auto parts store. These can fit old and new cars. For other anti-theft systems such as kill switches, you may want to hire an auto professional. Installing them yourself is an option, but can be tricky. Auto mechanics or other professionals can answer any questions you have regarding anti-theft devices for your specific vehicle.

Insurance Coverage for Car Theft

Most auto insurance policies cover car theft under comprehensive coverage and will reimburse you for the appraised value of your car, assuming it is not returned, or for damage that was done to the car as a result of the theft. Any parts that were stolen, such as your car stereo, may also be covered—provided they were permanently installed or attached to the vehicle. However, if you owe more on your car than it’s worth, you may want to consider gap insurance. This can help cover the difference between what your vehicle was worth when it was damaged and what you still owe on it. Essentially, it fills in the payment gap for you.

Other items that are stolen from the car, such as a cell phone or purse, would likely be covered under your homeowners insurance or rental insurance policy.

Statistically, vehicle thefts have been trending downward since their peak in 1991, which NICB credits to technology, law enforcement efforts and the creation of anti-theft organizations whose mission is to combat auto theft

But thieves are always finding new ways to adapt and hone their craft. Your preventive efforts can deter them and help ensure that your car remains safely in your possession.