AUTO THEFTS: Our No. 1 Crime By JAMES H. WINCHESTER Here are 10 practical tips for car owners who don't want to offer an inviting "gift" to thieves M ICKEY SPILLANE recently had his station wagon—plus luggage and clothes in the back seat—stolen right off the main street of a Florida resort Nothing like that could ever happen to Mike Hammer, Spillane's fictional hard-guy private eye. But the red-faced novelist joined more than 400,000 other U.S. motorists who will have their cars stolen during 1964. Bank robberies make the headlines, but auto larceny is the nation's No. 1 crime. Somewhere in the United States a car is stolen «very minute—well over 1,000 a day. The total value of cars stolen each year: $400 million plus. Despite such mounting statistics, the public remains generally apathetic about car theft. J. Edgar Hoover, director of the FBI, says : "American automobile owners operate what amounts to -a red-carpet service for car thieves. Perhaps in no other violations does negligence by the victim contribute more to the criminal act than in auto larceny." How do motorists make things easy for thieves? An FBI survey last year showed that, in almost 60 percent of the auto-theft cases, the key- was in the car or the ignition was left unlocked. Even hiding a spare key in your car is not wise. The first thing a thief does is check all the usual hiding places—under the dash, in the glove compartment, or on top of the sun visor. Police and insurance experts offer these tips to deter car thefts: • 1. Close all windows and lock them if possible. Lock all doors; 80 percent of the cars stolen have been left unlocked. The professional thief probably can get into your car whether it's locked or not, but many boys walk down streets trying doors until they find one unlocked—and then take the car. • 2. Whenever possible, park in a well-lighted, busy area. Thieves are shy of lights and crowds. • 3. If you have to park on a street in a city you don't know, find a place at or near a parking meter, even if it's after meter time. Police are more likely to patrol such areas than more isolated spots. Also, the nearer you can park to a corner the better. Any marauder is then visible from two directions instead of only one. • 4. Don't park your car in the same spot on the street each time. Move it around the block. Looters often watch a car to determine whether it regularly is being left overnight. • 5. If you have luggage or packages, lock them in the trunk rather than leave them on the back seat where they can be seen. A thief often takes a car he doesn't want just to get such valuables. • 6. Don't leave your car registration or driver's license in the glove compartment. The fleeing thief can show them to "prove" ownership. • 7. Check your license.plates daily. Frequently, thieves steal sets of license plates (or just one) from parked cars and later switch them to other cars for other crimes. A drop of solder on bolt threads or burning the threads after the bolts have been tightened will keep thieves from removing plates. • 8. If you park in a lot that makes you leave your keys, leave only the ignition key. Thieves are sometimes in league with parking-lot attendants, who make duplicates of home and business keys left with the car keys. Your name and address are obtained from your car- registration slip or through license- plate numbers. These are then sold to burglars. • 9. Check your gas gauge and inspect your tires and battery. Tanks of cars in parking lots sometimes are drained except for just a gallon or two. Often, too, old tires and batteries are substituted for nearly new ones. Tires and other equipment also are stolen from car trunks. If you find anything wrong, report it to the police before you leave the parking lot. There are hundreds of court rulings estab- lishing legal responsibility of the parking-lot operators, even though they have posted signs reading: "We are not responsible . . ." • 10. Be particularly wary about leaving things in your car around vacation or sports areas and in parking lots at turnpike restaurants. Car boosters (those who steal things from cars) are especially active in such places. A whopping 86 percent of stolen cars are taken just for joy riding. Increasingly, though, teen-agers are stripping cars they steal. One 16-year-old, arrested in Bryant, Tex., boasted he could remove an auto's transmission, worth about $250, in eight minutes. There is a. big teen-age market for them and for high-powered engines. In Topeka, Kans., a kid gang was uncovered that took orders for sports-car parts and accessories. They then went out and stripped sports cars to fill the orders— sometimes selling the stolen parts back to their original owners! To cut down car thefts, law-enforcement agencies are urging motorists to use prevention—particularly in view of the overwhelming number of teen-agers involved. For them, "opportunity" is the greatest incentive. A repentant young thief sums up the problem this way: "If your car is too much trouble to steal, it won't get stolen." COVER: Phoebe Dunn caught this father and- son on a rollicking carousel ride. On page 14, a noted author recalls his most inspiring moment — the proud day his «on IPOS born. LEONARD S. DAVIDOW Praident and PtMither WALTER C. OREYHJS-AMOemfr P*btMer PATRICK E. OKOURKE Executive Vice President and Advertising Director WILLIAM V. MUSSEY Advertifinf Manager MORTON FRANK Virr Prrmidrnt. Pttbluher Relation* Adrcniting office: 179 N. Michigan Av,., Chicago. III. 40601 Editorial office: 60 E. 56th St., New York, N.Y. 10022 «u*in«u office: 1727 S. Indiana Ave., Chicago. III. 60616 <£> 1M4, PROCESSING AND BOOKS. INC., Chicago, III. All rights momd. ERNEST V. HEYN Editor-in-Chief BEN KARTMAN Executive Editor ROBERT FITZGIBBON Managing Editor PHILLIP DYKSTRA Art Director MELANIE DE PROFT Food Editor Rotalyn Abrevaya, Ardwi Eidell. Hal London, Jock Ryan; Peer J. Oppenheimer, Hollywood.
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