Summer is the best season for car thieves to ply their trade, officials say

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Summer is the easiest time for car thieves to ply their trade.

Here in North Carolina, the North Carolina License and Theft Bureau says summer is the season when most vehicles are stolen and officials say a lot of drivers are making it easy for the thieves.

Most vehicles today come with the latest anti-theft technology. After this type of tech was introduced in the 90s, law enforcement began seeing car thefts going into decline.


But in the last few years, car thefts have begun to rise again with the biggest culprit being driver carelessness.

These days, many people who pull up to a gas station, ATM or convenience store make themselves an easy target for thieves.

“People leave their windows down, or cracked and many times don’t take their keys,” said Steven Watkins, who is the director of the N.C. License and Theft Bureau.

You might as well leave a sign that says “steal this car” because auto thieves look for that carelessness and take advantage of it.

A vehicle’s theft system is also no guarantee your car will stay safe. It can be hacked.

“There’s electronic technology that can defeat some of the anti-theft technology introduced in recent years,” said Roger Morris of the National Insurance Crime bureau. “They use devices now that can emulate your key fob. They can unlock your vehicle, jump inside and steal it.”

Morris said car makers are working on a way to defeat that hacking of those systems but it will take time.

As you might expect, high-population areas report the most stolen cars.

“Me and my colleagues in Durham, we’ve each recovered 15-20 cars a piece this year,’’ said inspector Seth Bryan with the N.C. License and Theft Bureau.

In May, the License and Theft Bureau’s inspectors recovered 110 vehicles statewide worth more than $750,000.

The inspectors say GPS tracking systems are a big help to police in tracking down stolen vehicles.

“We get quite a few recoveries using that,” said Bryan.

That leads him to believe that GPS systems are worth the money drivers spend on installing them.

Many stolen cars end up being sold by thieves who want to make a quick buck.

“They’ll sell them for abnormally low costs and that low price is a red flag,” he said.

Before you buy a used car from a private party, ask to see the title. The thief’s name won’t be on the title.

“They’ll find someone who isn’t knowledgeable of that and tell them I can get the title to you in a week or whatever,” Bryan said. “Don’t believe it. Just walk away.”

If you are concerned the car you are buying might be stolen, check its Vehicle Identification Number. It’s easy to do.

There’s a website run by the National Insurance Crime Bureau that lets you know if a vehicle has been reported stolen.

Motorcycles are also a target of thieves these days, Bryan said.

Experts recommend taking these steps to cut down on motorcycle theft.
• Attach your motorcycle to a stationary item with a cable lock
• Have a hidden ‘kill switch” installed on your motorcycle
• If traveling with another biker, lock both motorcycles together
• Keep your registration, insurance card and other papers with you

Email CBS North Carolina’s Steve Sbraccia if you have a consumer issue.

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