HAINES CITY, Fla. — Florida criminals stole more than 40,000 cars and trucks last year.
While Miami-Dade county ranks as the most targeted county in the state with 8,336 vehicles illegally taken, the Tampa Bay area also has some of the worst counties when it comes to motor vehicle thefts.
“It was 7:30 in the morning and I was like 'wait a minute,'” Wayne Owens of Polk County said. He knows all too well the gut-wrenching feeling of going outdoors to find your car missing.
“I came out the door just to check the pump and the car was gone,” he said. While Owens’ 2005 Jeep wasn’t his favorite car, the family said they were in disbelief when they came outside to see it gone.
But it’s not an uncommon feeling across Hillsborough County where 1,827 vehicles were reported stolen in the county in 2018.
Following behind that Pinellas County reported 1,790 vehicles stolen.
Here are the 2018 Tampa Bay area motor vehicle thefts by county:
According to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement $601,674,244 worth of vehicles were stolen last year.
“It was sitting here in the car port, it was unlocked,” Owens said.
Unlocked cars and crime of opportunity are the biggest appetizers for criminals looking to break into cars.
The National Insurance Crime Bureau recommends a four layer protection method to prevent theft of your vehicle.
Common Sense — the common sense approach to protection is the easiest and most cost-effective way to thwart would-be thieves. You should always:
• Remove your keys from the ignition
• Lock your doors /close your windows
• Park in a well-lit area
Warning Device — the second layer of protection is a visible or audible device which alerts thieves that your vehicle is protected. Popular devices include:
• Audible alarms
• Steering column collars
• Steering wheel/brake pedal lock
• Brake locks
• Wheel locks
• Theft deterrent decals
• Identification markers in or on vehicle
• VIN etching
• Micro dot marking
Immobilizing Device — the third layer of protection is a device which prevents thieves from bypassing your ignition and hot-wiring the vehicle. Some electronic devices have computer chips in ignition keys. Other devices inhibit the flow of electricity or fuel to the engine until a hidden switch or button is activated. Some examples are:
• Smart keys
• Fuse cut-offs
• Kill switches
• Starter, ignition, and fuel pump disablers
• Wireless ignition authentication
Tracking Device — the final layer of protection is a tracking device which emits a signal to police or a monitoring station when the vehicle is stolen. Tracking devices are very effective in helping authorities recover stolen vehicles. Some systems employ “telematics” which combine GPS and wireless technologies to allow remote monitoring of a vehicle. If the vehicle is moved, the system will alert the owner and the vehicle can be tracked via computer.