How to Protect Your Car in an Apartment Parking Lot

Large apartment complexes are high-risk zones for auto theft, since they have big groups of cars that are left unattended for a long time. If your car sits all alone at any time in your apartment building parking lot, you can help protect it against auto thieves, even if you can’t afford to rent a garage or if one isn’t available in your apartment complex.

You value your car, but possibly, so do thieves. According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB), a car was stolen in the United States every 28 seconds in 2008.

Large apartment complexes are high-risk zones for auto theft, since they have big groups of cars that are left unattended for a long time. If your car sits all alone at any time in your apartment building parking lot, you can help protect it against auto thieves, even if you can’t afford to rent a garage or if one isn’t available in your apartment complex.

“Auto thieves are like politicians,” said Frank Scafidi, Director of Public Affairs for the NICB, which is located north of Chicago. “Some are really good, and some aren’t very experienced. They will take campaign contributions from anywhere, even an ashtray full of pennies. Take the time to hide your valuables. Put them far under your seat or in the trunk of your car, and do it privately.”

Before you move to an apartment complex, obtain a crime statistics report about the area from the local  police department, which will help you gauge what types (if any) of crimes are prevalent in certain areas. If you must move to a neighborhood with a high volume of car thefts – or if your car is one of America’s most-stolen vehicles – follow the steps below for more peace of mind.

  1. Know which vehicles are popular among car thieves before you purchase a car. According to National Insurance Crime Bureau’s 2008 Hot Wheels report, the 10 most stolen vehicles are: the 1995 Honda Civic, 1991 Honda Accord, 1989 Toyota Camry, 1997 Ford F-150 Series Pickup, 1994 Chevrolet C/K 1500 Pickup, 1994 Acura Integra, 2004 Dodge Ram Pickup, 1994 Nissan Sentra, 1988 Toyota Pickup and 2007 Toyota Corolla.
  2. Find an apartment in a gated community. Though no gates keep all criminals out, gates with an additional arm that swings down provide an added barrier against thieves. Better yet, find apartments with a 24-security guard, or drive through the complex to look for parked police cars in front of units, indicating that some officers live on the premises.
  3. Park in crowded, well-lit areas of the parking lot. More traffic means less privacy for car thieves. Park directly under street lamps and avoid parking next to especially tall or long vehicles, which can provide hiding places for thieves.
  4. Put your VIN on more than your windows. Have your Vehicle Identification Number etched on the doors, panels, fenders and other major parts you think may be stolen. It’s more difficult for a thief to sell your car’s parts if the VIN is on all of them.
  5. Store your valuables out of sight. Each time you park your car, hide your music player, navigation system, DVD player, jewelry, packages, even mail that looks like there’s a check or credit card offer inside. If your navigation system or music player has a holder that can be removed, store that as well, and don’t just throw a jacket over anything in hopes that will protect the items. You don’t want thieves suspecting that you have anything inside your vehicle worth stealing.
  6. Always lock your vehicle. Never hide spare keys on or inside the vehicle, and never leave the car running without someone inside.
  7. Activate any theft deterrent you have. Though theft devices that lock the steering wheel are not foolproof, the more time-consuming an auto theft is, the more likely the thief will become discouraged and seek an easier target.
  8. Remove your title from the glove compartment. Keep a record of your license plate and vehicle identification number in your wallet or purse.
  9. Be the squeaky wheel that gets the oil. According to Scafidi, apartment residents can only take so many safety precautions before it becomes the apartment management’s responsibility. “Tenants should suggest securing the area to their landlord or apartment manager,” he said. “The manager can install cameras in the parking lots. Maybe that’s the kind of thing apartment residents can ask if they’re screening a complex, to see if there’s sufficient lighting and protection.”

If you’re on the market for an apartment, look for apartments with garages, covered parking, gated access, alarm systems and a security guard, so you can discover the perfect (safe) place to call home.

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  1. Nice one to share..Great work

  2. This is good tips for parking lots in general, and parking garages. It’s well-written and well-organized which I like also. Nice work. :-)

  3. Thanks! I’m glad you enjoyed it.

  4. My car was parked in the apartment complex assigned garage and it just caught fire with 6 other cars. Do i have any rights against my apartment complex??, can i go after their insurance, apart from my personal car insurance company?
    I had lot of my personal items like my computer (that i use at work), two set of eye glasses (one each for work and one used as sun shade), my camera, some little clothing etc..etc..From which insurance company i can claim???

  5. i live in a low income apt complex not by choice. my cars were brocken into twice now, i cant aford an alarm right now i called the police and got a police report.lindys managment wont do nothing about it, they lied to me and my family,they stated to us that they had on site security here,anyone that reads this please dont move here the greens apts in fayetteville arkansas all they care about is getting there rent check

  6. Watch out for predatory tow truck drivers that patrol the parking lot on a semi regular basis looking for cars to tow, such as infrequently driven cars. If you live in such a complex in a state where the laws have little to no protection against this type of towing, and you have a car you don’t drive that often, then be sure to move it about every two weeks or so. Be especially alert for tire marks (visible and invisible) and move it if any are found.

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