For the love of all that is holy, don’t leave things in your car!
I live in the middle of Atlanta, and as a responsible citizen and individual, I subscribe to my neighborhood’s email group so that I can remain informed about neighborhood events, construction, traffic detours (which are happening a lot lately with the bridge construction) and crime trends. This post is in regard to a particular crime trend which, in the six years I’ve lived in this particular area of Atlanta, you’d think that people would start learning from others’ misfortune. The crime trend I speak of is car break-ins.
As times get tough (as they are now), theft and property crimes tend to increase. But even in good times, if you live in or even spend any amount of time in an urban or densely-populated area, there is always the risk that, one day, you’ll return to your car and see one of the windows smashed in. I read reports of this on a daily basis; most of them occur either on Georgia Tech campus or in the expensive, new development to the north of me which is mostly occupied by suburban transplants. There is the occasional car break-in the heart of my neighborhood, but I’ve noticed that since the local police precinct has stepped up APD’s “clean car campaign,” that number has gone way, way down. About half of the ones I see occuring on campus report “no items taken,” which is good because it means that the victim really didn’t leave anything of value out in their car, but bad because there was probably something still setting out in their car that gave the criminal the impression that there might be something valuable worth looking for. Nearly all (close to 80 percent or more, I would estimate) of the break-ins that I read about that occur in Atlantic Station report stolen particularly valuable items such as laptops and currency.
I can only hypothesize that the reason that the campus area and Atlantic Station seems to see many more car break-ins than central Home Park (which lies between the two) is that both are populated with individuals who are not entirely accustomed to living in the city, and as a result, either easily forget or don’t realize that leaving anything that appears to be remotely of value visible in one’s vehicle, even for a brief period, is generally a bad idea. This is why I propose that, no matter where you live, it’s just a good habit to get into not to leave a lot of things laying around in your car, even if it’s not particularly valuable stuff and even if you think that no one in your town or neighborhood (where you might not even lock your doors at night) would even think about breaking into a car.
Why? Well, think about it: how many times have you gotten in a friend’s car, and had to move a mess of clothes, books, papers, shoes, fast food trash, etc. just to be able to sit in one of the passenger seats? What did that make you think of the quality of their car? Did you perhaps wonder, “what else could they possibly have in here?” Criminals wonder the same thing, and they’re hoping that the answer is something valuable. If they’re wrong, you’ll wind up having to pay for a broken window for their trouble. But break-ins aside, every single loose item in the cabin of your car can turn into a projectile if you ever get into an accident. So if your car is constantly full of junk, you increase your risk of injury (and injury of your passengers) should you get into an accident every time you get behind the wheel.
If there are things that you really need to keep in your car and have handy, put them in the console, the glove compartment, or any other discreet storage places inside of your car. If you don’t need to have them at hand all of the time, put them in your trunk. The same goes for things that you may need to store temporarily in your vehicle. Need to stop by the store on your way home from work, but don’t want to carry your briefcase or laptop bag in with you? Don’t leave it on the backseat, put it in the trunk. Out on a shopping trip and you need to leave the parcels from the last stop in the car? Put them under a seat (if you can) or in the trunk. The more that it appears that there is nothing of possible value in your car, the safer you will be from break-ins. The more that it appears that there is nothing of possible value in anyone’s car, the safer everyone will be from break-ins.
So can you leave anything out in your car? Sure. There are some things that are typical, non-valuable items that can generally be safely left visible in a car, provided that your car is otherwise uncluttered on the inside. These items include a pen, a (cheap) water bottle, a blanket (and possibly a small car pillow), a sun shield, an atlas and an umbrella. However, for safety, these items should still be stored in your car as neatly and securely as possible (perhaps in the pocket on the back of one of the seats or in the console).
What are some things that you may think it’s safe to leave visible, but it’s probably not a good idea? Car chargers for cell phones come immediately to mind, as do shoes, clothing and any kind of bag (like a gym bag, tote or even a shopping bag in some cases), whether it’s empty or not.