The holidays are a prime time for auto break-ins and burglary.

The holiday season is upon us! And just as we prepare for the holidays with shopping for the perfect gift, thieves are also preparing to shop in your vehicle!

The majority of auto thefts happen during the summer months. However, a surprising number occur during the holidays. These crimes can escalate during the holiday season when drivers frequently visit malls and shopping centers and travel to visit friends and family. According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) annual holiday theft report, more than 9,800 vehicles were stolen between Thanksgiving Day and New Year’s Day nationwide in 2017. Don’t let the hustle and bustle of the season allow you to become distracted and act carelessly with your vehicle.

Thieves Don’t Take a Break for the Holidays.

During the holiday season, thieves aren’t just interested in what’s inside your car. If your car is stolen, there is a good chance it is heading straight to a chop shop or the black market. Thieves can make big money by stripping your vehicle of its parts. Only 2.5% of the 3,935,037 vehicle parts and accessories stolen in 2017 were recovered.

Protect your vehicle during this busy holiday season by taking precautions that will make your vehicle less of a target. Here are some simple ways to help minimize your car's appeal to thieves.

Take Your Keys.

Take your keys with you when you leave. In the winter months, I know it feels good to warm your car. It also feels good to thieves – so don’t leave a running vehicle unattended, even for a few minutes. Statistics from The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) states that nearly 1 in 4 vehicles stolen in Virginia have the keys inside. Make sure to turn your car off and remove your keys at all times, even if it's just a quick trip back inside the house.

Place valuables in the trunk or out of sight.

Conceal any valuables – including holiday gifts and gadgets – by stowing them in your trunk. Remember to lock your car, and be aware that gifts stored in your vehicle often give thieves additional motive to break in. The perfect hiding space for gifts may be your vehicle. However, don’t assume your car is safe because it is parked outside of your home. Last year, the top location for motor vehicle theft was the victim's residence, for a total of 4,289 reported thefts.

Be Aware.

Be alert. As you approach your vehicle, be aware of your surroundings. Remember where your car is parked and walk directly to it. Avoid talking or texting on cell phones, digging for keys or juggling multiple packages as it can be a distraction and can make you an easy target to criminals. Thieves stake out retail parking lots and look for shoppers who are placing items in trunks. Hide things like computers or packages in the trunk before you leave your home for the store.

Park in Well-Lit Areas.

Park your car in a safe, well-lit area that gets plenty of foot traffic. In 2017, 22 percent of all auto thefts in Virginia took place in a parking lot. You may be shopping, visiting family or attending a holiday party, but it's important to park your vehicle in a safe place as to avoid becoming a target for opportunistic thieves.

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