How to protect your fleet vehicles from theft
Smash-and-Grab Thefts (aka Crimes of Opportunity)
This is the most common form of automotive theft, where the thief steals a vehicle whose windows are down or the door is unlocked, and has valuables (i.e. a laptop) in plain sight, while the driver is picking up cargo, making a delivery or making sales to a business. It takes less than a minute for the thief to reach in and steal the valuables.
How to Deter Smash-and-Grab Thefts:
- Add tinted windows – Install the darkest legal limit of tint on the windows of your vehicles. However, experts say that this measure will only discourage the low achievers of this particular group of thieves, given that they can still look through the windshield and see inside the vehicle.
- Install shatter-resistant window film and safety glass – They can help make it more difficult for a thief to get into the vehicle.
- Install metal mesh – It is a secure, yet expensive, option if you want to install metal mesh in a fleet of many vehicles.
- Cage the vehicle – It is considered among the best theft deterrent options for this particular form of vehicle theft. If the thieves need asbestos gloves and a cutting torch to reach the valuables inside the car, they must be idiots to give it a try.
Of course, removing or hiding all treasures from inside the vehicle, when it is not in operation, is the easiest approach. Also, provide added security by having any toolboxes you might have in the vehicles in heavy-duty steel compartments, secured with hardened locks and steel-lock latches. Finally, to increase your chances of recovery, it is advised to document and videotape the tools or equipment left in the fleet vehicle (for insurance and law enforcement reporting purposes), and also mark them with permanent identifiers.
Common Sense Strategies
- Lock the doors.
- Keep windows up.
- Remove keys from the ignition.
- Avoid installing key lock boxes in or on a fleet vehicle (particularly applicable to drivers that share fleet vehicles). Instead, opt for a key control system, where fleet drivers need to check in and sign out the keys of their vehicle(s).
- Do not leave spare keys in the vehicle. Pros know where to look for them.
- Park fleet vehicles in attended lots and/or well-lit areas (most vehicle thefts occur during night-time).
- Never leave the vehicle unattended and running.
Visible Deterrents on the Vehicle
Visible deterrents on the vehicle, such as security light (this indicates the presence of a security alarm), signage that indicates the vehicle has additional security measures on board (even if there is no anti-theft device present), steering wheel locking bars* (they will not allow the proper rotation of the steering wheel), brake locks, audible alarms, and window etching, will make the thief re-think about stealing the vehicle. Immobilisation devices** can also help.
* Many wheel locking bars come with additional hardware that does not allow the thief to break into the steering column housing to either steal the air bag or defeat the ignition.
** Aftermarket devices to help prevent the engine from running without the correct key (i.e. starter/fuel/ignition disablers, kill switches, fuse cuff-offs, and high-security keys and locks).
Keyless Vehicle Theft (for distribution overseas, criminal activities or other reasons)
Vehicle Trackers (GPS)
Vehicle trackers are the answer to thieves hacking the electronic systems of the vehicle and overcome its immobiliser. Most of the times, the thief uses a device to block the radio signal when the driver locks the vehicle with their electronic key. Then, the thief plugs a device directly into the vehicle’s diagnostic port and downloads the electronic information of the vehicle on a blank key, which they use to drive away with the stolen vehicle in a matter of seconds from start to finish. Unfortunately, a Home Office Report warns that the more advanced the knowledge of electronic compromise becomes among offenders, the more vehicle thefts will keep on rising, given that criminals have always tried to unpick a security upgrade a car manufacturer makes.
All that leaves fleet vehicle owners with the final security layer – vehicle trackers – that will allow you to not only monitor the movement of your fleet vehicles but also help you track a stolen vehicle as quickly as possible (time is of the essence in these cases) while alert authorities to its location at the same time. GPS tracking devices such as those provided by RAM Tracking usually do not cost too much and, if your fleet is insured by a third party, you may as well save money by having one onboard.