Auto theft has become a serious and very prevalent problem both locally and internationally, consequently, preventing auto theft is of high priority to all vehicle owners because losing a vehicle due to theft carries with it heavy cost and psychological implications not to mention the interference with the normal life routines. The research will seek to explore the strategies through which auto theft can be prevented. The focus of the research will be on the methods which have been successfully employed to curb the problem, those methods that have not been effective and emerging initiatives that present practical opportunities for implementation. The effect of government, societal and individual attitudes and stance on the prevalence of auto theft will also be analyzed. The question considered here is; Are there ways in which auto theft can be effectively prevented?
According to some schools of thought, the effect of auto theft on victims and the community has not always been as adverse as compared to other crimes such as murder or drug trafficking therefore this crime has not received much attention from researchers but the importance of inquiries into auto theft as a research subject with the aim of finding ways of preventing it can not be over emphasized considering the magnitude of its effects. The economic loss alone that arise due to auto theft is a great setback that affects individuals, business organizations and governments alike. In 2008 the cost of vehicles lost to theft amounted to $ 6.4 billion.(Federal Bureau of Investigation, 2010). The psychological and social effects arising from auto theft can also be very severe (Berkson, 2004).
How then can auto theft be effectively prevented? There are various anti theft devices that can be installed in vehicles to prevent theft. There are electronic immobilizers that can be activated by certain actions such as attempting to start a car without the car keys or forced entry audible alarms while others can be activated by the driver, there are audible alarms that give out loud warning signals, there are also vehicle tracking devices that can be used to locate vehicles. Research done by Rhodes and Kling found that installing anti-theft devices in vehicles reduced thefts by between 156 and 222 cars per 100,000 when 50 percent of those 100,000 cars are installed with anti-theft devices while it was seen that there was a theft reduction of between 311 and 445 cars per 100,000 when 100 percent of those cars had anti-theft devices.(Rhodes and Kling, 2003)
Visible placement of Video surveillance cameras has also proved effective in the prevention of auto theft. The essence of this method is that it increases the sense of risk of getting caught perceived by the would be criminal thereby acting as a deterrent. According to Eck, this strategy is very effective in preventing auto theft and also serves the purpose of collecting information that can further be used to apprehend perpetrators of crime.(Eck, 2002). Parts marking as a way of preventing auto theft has been proved to provide very good results. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has acknowledged the effectiveness of this strategy and according to Rhodes an Kling (2003), “evaluation provides evidence that parts marking has reduced automobile theft”.( p 41.)
Taylor and Covington are of the view that “micro-level prevention or deterrence strategies such as citizen or police patrolling would not necessarily be more effective than patrols targeting a broader section of the city. The good news here is that future motor vehicle theft rate shifts are somewhat predictable, and this information can be used to craft long-term risk-reduction efforts (as cited inWelsh and Taylor, 2007, p. 82 ).