Thieves can steal more than holiday spirit

November 29, 2006

Unitrin Specialty investigator reminds shoppers to use common sense

The gifts you’ve spent hours shopping for could be gone in under 15 seconds if you’re in too much of a rush this holiday season.

You can make sure those receipts don’t turn into documentation for insurance claims by following a few common-sense tips.

“If you have ten packages in your hand and are wandering around looking for your car, it’s easy for a thief to knock you down, take your packages and run. So make multiple trips to your vehicle to temporarily store packages out-of-site in the trunk,” said Joe Pierron, special investigator for Unitrin Specialty and Chairman of the North Texas Crime Commission Auto Theft Committee. “Also, always remember where your car is parked and have your keys out when you get there.”

The idea is to maintain awareness of your surroundings and minimize the time a thief has to snatch your packages.

“Whether a thief wants to steal your car or just its contents, the principles are the same,” said Pierron, whose committee supports the Dallas-area Regional Auto Theft Tracking & Law Enforcement Response (RATTLER) bait vehicle initiative which has resulted in 194 arrests and over 110 convictions or guilty pleas as of November 2006. “Thieves target lazy, complacent victims, the ones who are distracted and oblivious to their surroundings.”

That would include most holiday shoppers. Depending on his motive, an opportunistic thief may not only knock down an unsuspecting consumer and steal recently purchased gifts, but he may also grab car keys and steal the car.

Professional thieves have told law enforcement officials that they might not even have to work that hard to steal a vehicle.

“Convenience stores, dry cleaners and daycare centers on rainy days are the most likely places car thieves get lucky,” said Pierron. “People leave their cars running and think that just because they can see the vehicle, it’s safe. That’s not the case.”

During the holidays, those same thieves are apt to target parking lots. And while they may not get away with your vehicle, they can steal your holiday spirit. Here are a few common sense tips to help protect you and your vehicle this season:

  • Close all windows, lock all doors and keep the keys with you.
  • Never hide a second set of keys anywhere in your vehicle. Thieves know all the hiding places.
  • Park in well-lit, busy parking lots. Thieves don’t like witnesses.
  • Put all packages and personal items out of sight. Items left in the open make your vehicle a desirable target.
  • Keep your garage door opener with you. A thief may attempt to get into your home.
  • Use your garage and lock both the vehicle and garage doors. Locking both doors greatly reduces the chance of theft.
  • Don’t become complacent because you drive an older model vehicle. Older cars can be resold quickly or stripped for parts. A vehicle’s parts are worth two to three times the value of the car.
  • Have your VIN number etched on your windows. This makes it difficult for a thief to switch VIN numbers on a stolen vehicle.
  • Be sure your anti-theft devices are activated. Any deterrent is better than no deterrent.
  • If you have an uneasy feeling about a particular location or individual loitering about, there is a reason – TRUST YOUR INSTINCTS!

Unitrin Specialty®* is part of Unitrin, Inc., a Chicago-based financial services company with $9 billion in assets. Founded in 1946, Unitrin Specialty is headquartered in Dallas, Texas and provides personal and commercial specialty automobile insurance to individuals and businesses through more than 8,500 independent agents/brokers in 23 states. Unitrin member companies are rated “excellent” by both A.M. Best and Standard & Poor’s Rating Services. Independent Agents can review Unitrin products and services at

(Unitrin Specialty includes: Unitrin County Mutual Insurance Company, Alpha Property and Casualty Insurance Company, Charter Insurance Company and Financial Indemnity Company).

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