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On The Road

How to keep your car from being stolen

The last thing a driver wants is buying holiday gifts for a thief's family and friends. Especially when holidays and Christmas gifts are being exposed to people looking in your car.

With a higher and continued growing number of car thefts and car break-ins in Los Altos that occur during the holidays, there are precautionary measures drivers can take to better their chances of not becoming a crime statistic.

Noreen Sorg, crime prevention officer for the Los Altos Police Department, offered some tips for drivers in a telephone interview last week.

"Probably the most important thing a car owner can do is hide tantalizing items for a thief to consider," Sorg said. "The best way to prevent car crimes and keep thieves from breaking into your car is to take out valuables and put them in your house or when shopping hide any valuable items in the trunk."

As for stealing cars, Sorg suggested a few ideas that will keep your car from becoming an off-road ride experiment. Probably the best solution, she said, is an anti-starting device for your motor. These can be personalized for any car or vehicle and cost between $30-$250 to have installed. When the driver enters the car, the system requires a certain button be pushed or a knob pulled before the engine can start.

Another method of preventing a car theft, Sorg said, is a car alarm that goes off when a person is too near the vehicle or tries to break in. Different systems have different sensibilities that will trigger the loud alarm.

These alarms are dependable when it comes to letting people in the surrounding area know a car is being stolen, but the problem, Sorg said, is often lack of response. Though efficient in their mechanical dependability, car-alarm systems can fail because people have become so used to hearing them they don't look to see a reason for the noise.

"Sometimes these systems are set off for no other reason than a shopping cart bumps into the car," Sorg said. "Often people hear the noise, but think it's a false alarm."

One silent, but deterrent method of stopping or discouraging would-be thieves is the steering-wheel locking device, Sorg said. Often referred to as The Club, it has proven results and is made of hardened steel and would-be thieves often ignore the car that has it.

"You become a nuisance to the thief when you have one of these clubs. Sometimes a thief will see the club and walk on and not bother to look in the car, Sorg said. "Although The Club has helped decrease the number of car crimes, police report the club purchasers often stop using it after a month."

Most car-stereo systems today - those worth stealing - are easily removable and portable. Cellular phones are also removable and should be removed from the car when not using them. Compact discs should not be left lying around for people to see and, above all, keep the doors locked. If you don't take things with you, you should at least hide them under the seats, in the glove compartment, or even better, in the trunk of your car.

Sorg also recommends avoiding dark areas in parking lots and remote spots in shady, question

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