In the year 2000, Nicholas Cage made a film about a master car thief trying to save his brother by stealing 50 cars in three days. The implication is that Cage’s character is such an excellent car thief that, if he sets his eyes on your vehicle, it will be be “gone in 60 seconds.” While the film’s premise strained credibility even when it was released, a decade later the idea that any car thief, no matter how skilled, could have such an easy time making off with a car would not only be unlikely, it would be very nearly impossible.
In the decade since that movie came out, car theft is down by over 60%. This is due in large part to advances in technology meant to make it more difficult for thieves to have their way with a car unless they have a degree in automotive engineering or computer science.
The first obstacle is that modern cars are basically impossible to start unless you have the key. A car’s key is now electronically encoded so that its computer will not start the vehicle until it confirms that they key is in the ignition and has been properly turned. In fact, many thieves are now resorting to home break-ins simply to steal car key. Indeed, statistics suggest that this is the motivation for as many as 1/5 of such break-ins.
Furthermore, old methods of hot-wiring cars are now untenable. With cars made earlier than the 90′s, a thief could simply remove the dash and fiddle with the various parts down there until something fired up – it was actually laughably easy, even for someone who didn’t know how to do it beforehand. This problem was solved by putting those components in a place where they could not be so readily accessed by someone who should not be touching them. Of course, since these components may need to be looked at for purposes of repair, they are accessible by some means. But getting to them without proper knowledge is extremely difficult, and even then there are other safeguards in place.
There have also been advances in the less electronically-oriented areas of preventing auto theft. Cars made in the last decade have locks with harder steel than those of previous models, and as such are harder break open with a simple tool like a screwdriver. The glass in contemporary cars is also considerably harder to break, and many cars are now programmed not to unlock from the inside when the owner is away. This means the thief has to actually climb in over the glass he has broken in order to get to the steering wheel, which is often enough to make a would-be thief simply move on.
With all the safety measures in place, petty criminals are have much less incentive to even try stealing cars. Organized crime may be able to amass the resources to steal some modern cars, but since they are much more likely to target very high-end luxury cars, the average car owner need not give them much worry.
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