Cars Vulnerable When Holiday Shopping

If you plan to go shopping and take advantage of the after-Thanksgiving sales — be aware thieves plan to go shopping in the parking lots and take advantage of you. As Laurie Johnson reports — the holiday shopping season is the worst when it comes to auto burglary.
You're pushing your way through the mall crowds, dragged down by bags and packages, so you make the decision to head out to the car and stow all your purchases.

"And the thieves know that this occurs and so they use these opportunities to go out and scout the parking lots and find the vehicles where hopefully some individuals have left their vehicles unlocked and the access is very easy to just slip in and take that merchandise from the purchaser."

That's Michelle Lanham. She's with the Texas Auto Burglary and Theft Prevention Authority.

Lanham says a surprising number of people don't lock their cars, making it easy for thieves to victimize them.

"Amazingly enough, I was in a retail parking lot this morning of a strip shopping center and we went down a row of cars and tested about ten vehicles. Out of the ten, there were seven that were unlocked."

Law enforcement officials recommend three prevention techniques to protect yourself against auto burglary.

"Lock, take and hide. Lock the vehicle, take the keys, hide the belongings. Now it's totally acceptable to go out and put your purchases in the car. But it you must do that, hide them as best you can. In a traditional passenger car that would be putting the merchandise into the trunk where at least it's not visible."

If you're driving an SUV or some other vehicle that doesn't have a hidden trunk area, Lanham recommends bringing a blanket to cover the shopping bags.

And she says don't forget small items such as sunglasses.

"Now if the vehicle is being scouted by a thief who is interested in reselling merchandise, people shouldn't let their guard down even on the simple items such as sunglasses. Because as you know, you can go out and buy sunglasses that cost $200-$300 these days and those sunglasses can easily be pawned or sold on the street. So even something as simple as that is attractive to a thief."

Authorities estimate a vehicle is burglarized every two minutes in the state of Texas. Last year, thieves committed more than 262,000 acts of auto burglary.

Laurie Johnson. KUHF-Houston Public Radio News.
Bio photo of Laurie Johnson

Laurie Johnson

Local Host, All Things Considered

Laurie Johnson is the Houston host for All Things Considered at KUHF NPR for Houston. Before taking the anchor chair, she worked as a general assignments reporter at KUHF, starting there as an intern in 2002...