Car thefts and break-ins continue to rise in New Jersey. Many of these crimes could be avoided by simply locking your car and removing the key fob.

Unfortunately, many people do not do this, making them an easy mark for a quick crime.

This has been increasingly frustrating for police, who have been sending out alerts and reminders after theft and burglary sprees in their towns.

Earlier this week, I hosted a special Access New Jersey on New Jersey 101.5's Facebook Live focused on security.

The conversation with show sponsor Acteon Networks' Director Chris Devanney was particularly eye-opening.

While there are certainly organized theft rings that target specific vehicles, many of the most common thefts are crimes of opportunity. Devanney says there are things bad actors look for that tip them off a vehicle is not locked.

Once spotted, it only takes a few seconds for a criminal to open your vehicle door, grab whatever they can, and speed off.

Many newer vehicles, and most high-end cars and trucks, have a feature that folds your sideview mirrors in when you lock the car and take the fob with you.

The bad guys know this, Devanney says, and look for it.

"There was a recent case where guys were walking through parking lots scoping out high-end vehicles. Whenever they saw one that did not have their mirrors folded in, they knew it was probably open," DeVanney tells New Jersey 101.5 listeners. "They just walked up, and opened the door."

In this case, they weren't looking to steal the car, just whatever they could grab from the inside in just a few seconds.

Leaving your car unlocked, even in your own driveway, is bad enough. Some people even leave their spare key fob in the glovebox or center console.

More advanced car thieves have scanning equipment that can detect those keys. They will drive down the street until they get a "hit" on a vehicle, then double back, hop in and speed off.

There were 14,322 car thefts reported in New Jersey over the first 11 months of 2022, 41% above the record low in 2020, according to the New Jersey State Police.

That includes 3,903 thefts of high-end cars valued at $30,000 or more, up from 3,183 through the first 11 months of 2021 and 2,186 in the same period in 2020.

State lawmakers have been considering a number of anti-theft initiatives, including a focus on catalytic converter thefts, carjacking, using a motor vehicle master key and extended sentences for repeat offenders.

Some local towns have also proposed various methods for deterring this type of crime.

In Holmdel, they have proposed a law that would fine or imprison someone who tries to open, unlock, or even stand near a vehicle that is not theirs.

It would be illegal for anyone who does not own or have permission to access a certain vehicle "to enter or remain on any driveway, paved surface, or location within 20 feet" of that car when parked.

Reaction to these measures are mixed.

Public safety experts say prevention starts with you.

The State Police issued the following guidelines:

⚫ Ensure your vehicle is always locked.

⚫ Never leave a window open.

⚫ Ensure all valuables are kept out of sight.

⚫ Never leave your vehicle running.

⚫ Never leave your keys in your vehicle.

⚫ When parking, turn the tires toward the curb. This will make it difficult to tow.

⚫ Always use your emergency brake.

⚫ Park your vehicle in a well-lighted area.

⚫ Try to park your vehicle in attended lots. Criminals DO NOT like witnesses.

⚫When parking your vehicle in an attended lot, always use your valet key.

⚫Never Leave the title or registration in your vehicle when it is unattended. A thief will use these documents to assist in selling your vehicle.

⚫Disable your vehicle when leaving for extended periods of time, i.e., disconnect the battery.

⚫Use locking screws on your license plate.

Whenever possible, use all available anti-theft devices:

🔴 Steering wheel locks

🔴 Window etching

🔴 Vehicle tracking devices, i.e., LoJack

🔴 Audible alarms

🔴 Armored collars around steering columns

🔴 Devices to disable the gas or brake pedal

🔴 Wheel locks

🔴 Gear shift locks

🔴 Hood locks

🔴 Fuel kill switches

🔴 Ignition kill switches


Eric Scott is the senior political director and anchor for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at

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