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Tough Economy Could Cause a Spike in Car Thefts and Other Crimes

In the midst of a full-blown recession, our country is likely to see an increase in at least one area: crime. As the rate of unemployment sky-rockets and law enforcement budget cuts sweep the nation, experts say a spike in crime (particularly property crimes) is imminent.

The shocking statistics

Although the latest FBI statistics show that violent crime fell 3.5% and property crimes dropped by 2.5% in the first six months of 2008, the agency’s final 2008 statistics are not available yet. However, based on historical evidence, experts predict that a swell in crime is in the cards—and it may already be occurring.

As a matter of fact, 43% of police departments reported rising levels of “recession-related crimes,” according to a recent Police Executive Research Forum survey of 233 police departments. Of those surveyed, 40% of departments said thefts had increased in recent months, 39% said robberies had risen and 32% reported a boost in burglaries.

Sociologists and other crime experts say this uptick in crime is not surprising. History shows that crime rates generally peak during or immediately after a recession. In fact, the U.S. underwent an increase in crime during each of our last five recessions.

Experts point out that police department budget cuts will only magnify the problem. Due to declining sales and property taxes, law enforcement agencies throughout the nation are being forced to activate hiring freezes, postpone buying equipment and even lay off officers.

Protect your vehicle

In the heat of rising property crime rates, experts are strongly encouraging people to take extra care to protect their homes and cars. Here are a few ways to decrease your risk of becoming a car theft victim or at least minimize the financial impact:

·   Install a car alarm.

·   Always roll up your car windows and lock the doors.

·   Never leave valuables in plain view in your car. Lock shopping bags in the trunk and place any electronics, including portable GPS systems and iPods, in the glove compartment.

·   Never park in a secluded area. Find a crowded, well-lit area and try to park near vehicles that are similar in size to your car. If you park a small car between two large trucks or SUV’s, it’s an easy target—thieves can hide behind the cover of the larger vehicles while they break into your car.

·   Remove your garage door opener from the car. Some thieves will steal garage door openers and look for mail or other documents in the car with your address on it. Then, they’ll rob your house when you’re away.

·   Make copies of all the documents you need to keep in your car, including insurance ID cards and registration documents. Black out your home address on the copies. Keep the originals at home or in a safety deposit box, and put the copies without your address in your car. (This ensures that thieves can’t find out where you live.)

·   Carefully review your auto and homeowner’s insurance policies. Items stolen from a car that are not actually part of the vehicle typically are not covered by auto insurance policies. Therefore, you may have to claim thefts of portable electronics, jewelry and other items stolen from your car under your homeowner’s policy. You should also look at your current coverage amount and determine if you need to increase your maximum limits to cover your personal items.

·   Consider purchasing a personal article insurance policy for expensive items like engagement rings, fur coats or other valuables. These polices often include worldwide coverage and no deductibles.