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How to Protect Your Vehicle From Theft in Illinois

Feb 24, 2023|

Car jackings, catalytic converter theft, and motor vehicle theft in general have been climbing nationwide, but few states have seen a faster rise in these cases than Illinois. The Cook County sheriff has warned the public of a dramatic spike in Chicago car jackings and car thefts while urging local vehicle owners to take additional precautions to safeguard their cars.

Some vehicles are more vulnerable to theft than others. For example, more than 7,000 Hyundai and Kia vehicles were stolen in Chicago in 2022. This spike emerged after thieves discovered a way to exploit a weakness in certain models that lacked engine mobilizers. With auto thieves discovering new hacks that make theft easier, it's often up to car owners to take additional steps to protect their vehicles and property.

Car parked in front of a home.

Preventing motor vehicle theft in Cook County

Police data shows the incidence of stolen cars is up 96% in 2022, with more than 18,000 car thefts occurring throughout the year. This figure nearly doubles that of all stolen vehicles in Chicago in 2021, which was just under 9,000 total incidents. To reduce your risk of having your vehicle stolen, here are some actions recommended by the Cook County Sheriff's Office.

Choose well-lit parking spots

Always park your car on well-lit streets and parking lots in high-traffic areas. The lighting illuminates your car and the area around it, making it difficult for thieves to test your car doors and trunk without being seen. Parking in a high-traffic area ensures there will be someone walking by your car often, which is also a deterrent to thieves looking for an easy score.

Choose close parking spots

Park your vehicle as close as possible to your destination. If someone is watching you leave your car, this lets them know they probably won’t have time to access your car uninterrupted because you are likely running a short errand. The uncertainty and increased risk of detection are often enough for thieves to move on to another target.

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Stay aware of your surroundings

Another important tip for reducing your risk of having your car stolen is to remain aware of your surroundings when you park your car. Are there lots of people loitering nearby? Is there anyone noticeably watching you as you leave your car? Being aware of your surroundings will help you choose safer places to park your vehicle.

Secure your windows

When parking your vehicle, you should roll up your windows and lock your doors. Having the windows rolled up makes it harder for thieves to access your car and its contents through the window. Before leaving your car, confirm that your windows are sealed.

Make sure your locks work correctly

It is also important to verify all your lock actuators work. Vehicle owners who use their backseats and trunks infrequently can go months or even years without knowing they have a faulty lock. Locks that don't work correctly provide an easy access point for thieves who check all the doors and trunk to gain entry to vehicles.

Keep track of your key fob

If your car supports keyless entry, do not leave the key fob in your vehicle, even for a short while. Running car engines are quieter than ever, so you might not notice if your car is started and driven away. Car owners have reported their vehicle as stolen after they exited the car without realizing the ignition was on and the fob still inside.

Person putting Vivint Car Guard into their vehicle.

Be smart with your spare key

Never keep a spare set of keys in the car, even if you think it's well hidden. Experienced car thieves know where to look. They'll rifle through car ashtrays and visors, check under floor mats, and even pop the hood to look for magnetic key boxes. Instead, store your spare keys in a separate location away from the vehicle or give a spare set to a trusted friend you can count on in a pinch.

Make your car hard to tow

Chicago car thieves commonly use tow trucks to commit motor vehicle theft. To prevent incidents like this, put your manual-transmission vehicle in gear, and for cars with automatic transmissions, apply the emergency brake after turning your wheels toward the curb. This makes it considerably more difficult to tow the car and increases the chances that the thieves will be seen if your car is targeted.

Secure your garage

It’s important to remember to always lock your garage and never leave your garage door opener in the car. Easy access to your garage attracts attention and makes it easier for the thief to make a swift exit. If the garage door opener is left in the car, the thief now has a way to access your garage (and possibly your home) at any time of day or night. Instead of leaving the garage door opener in your car, make a habit of keeping it with your keys in a purse, bag, or set storage space.

Keep your vehicle title safe

Never leave your vehicle title in the car. If it’s stolen, thieves can use the vehicle title to illegally transfer your car into someone else's name. Title theft can make it more difficult to retrieve your stolen car. You'll also have to prove that the car is yours and you did not just sell it to someone else and report it stolen as a scam.

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