Keeping cars off the road as much as possible is one of the long-term goals of many environmentalist groups. The coronavirus pandemic has provided a brief snapshot of what a world with fewer cars would look like. And while environmentalists rightfully point to the benefits, keeping cars off the road is not all good news. It has its downsides.

According to police departments across the country, there has been a noticeable up-tick in car theft and other auto-related crimes since the start of coronavirus lockdowns. But it is a mixed bag. Auto crimes are up in Austin, Texas but holding steady in Dallas. Other cities have seen spikes so high that they are almost off the charts.

So, what’s going on here? Why are cars more at risk with people staying home and driving less? These are curious questions given the fact that thieves do everything within their power to not get caught. They pick vacant homes to burglarize. They work under the cover of darkness when burglarizing businesses. They tend to steal cars in areas where they are least likely to get caught.

Some Victims Are Unaware

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We can get a clue about what car thieves are thinking by taking a closer look at their victims. According to CNN, the Seattle police recently returned a stolen car to an owner who wasn’t even aware it had been missing. The department’s Lieutenant Tom Yoon said that “with the stay-home order, people aren’t driving their cars and don’t realize they’ve been stolen.”

Think about that for just a minute. Where do you park your car? Can you see it from any window in your house? And if so, how often do you look out that window?

Perhaps you park your car in the driveway. Maybe the driveway is not visible from inside your home. If you do not leave the house for several days due to lockdown restrictions, you might not lay eyes on your car once during that time. You would never know it is gone.

The implication of Yoon’s statement is that car thief are on to us. They have figured out that we are confining ourselves to our homes for days at a time. They know we are not even stepping out of the front door to check on the yard and driveway. Thus, they see an opportunity to steal.

Where There is Money There is Crime

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Another factor to consider is the local demographics. Common sense dictates that where there is money, there is also a crime. That could partially explain the up-tick in car thefts being seen in Austin right now. For the record, Austin has one of the highest crime rates in the state of Texas.

Austin is also a technology hotspot. It is quickly becoming as important to the tech industry as Silicon Valley was two decades ago. Austin is home to a lot of well-paying tech jobs employing workers who make very good livings.

Combine the high standard of living in Texas with the restrictions of coronavirus lockdowns, and you have a recipe for more car theft. It really is a perfect storm. People with nice cars just aren’t paying attention to those cars as much as they used to. When you are not paying attention is when thieves are most likely to strike.

Environmental Gains, Financial Losses

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Nothing in this world is one-sided. This includes the effects of nationwide lockdowns keeping cars off the road. On the positive side, fewer cars mean fewer emissions being added to the atmosphere. In some cities, the air is cleaner than it has been in decades. It is hard to argue that keeping cars off the road has its perks.

The other side of that coin is the financial loss associated with fewer cars. In the case of the coronavirus pandemic, fewer cars on the roads have led to an increase in car thefts. Each one of those car thefts represents a financial loss to an owner and an insurance company. But let us dig a little deeper.

Fewer cars on the road also mean less fuel being consumed. That translates into financial losses for gas stations, petroleum companies, truckers, and a whole host of tertiary companies whose lifeblood is fuel. Financial losses translate into job losses, which only add to the challenges.

It is clear that there is no right or wrong here. Keeping cars off the roads has both its positives and negatives. Perhaps a more important question for car owners is what to do about the rise in auto thefts.

Protecting Your Car

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Vivint Smart Home is one of many home automation providers recommending an integrated solution. They say the combination of an outdoor video camera and an electronic car protection system works best. Vivint suggests using a Car Guard electronic system, but it is by no means the only system on the market.

Those who do not want to go high-tech still have very viable options. These include:

  • parking in a garage at night, when possible
  • parking in high visibility locations when out and about
  • always locking doors when not in the car
  • never leave valuables in the car
  • arming the car’s alarm system, if equipped.

You protect against car theft in ways that are similar to avoiding home burglary. At the center of good protection, the strategy is the concept of not advertising opportunities to thieves. In other words, do not give a car thief or burglar any reason to go near your car.

Understand that car theft has spiked while Americans have remained stuck in their homes. Hopefully, the trend will reverse as states reopen and people go back to work. Until that happens, make sure your car is not a magnet for thieves. Take appropriate precautions, whether high-tech or otherwise.

In the meantime, we can all enjoy less traffic, cleaner air, and quieter streets. Let us enjoy fewer cars on the roads for as long as it lasts. They will all be back sooner or later.

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