The FINANCIAL -- That feeling when you spot shattered glass strewn near your parked car: It's one many Northwest drivers can relate to. Yet the latest poll from PEMCO Insurance finds that few Washington and Oregon drivers share significant concern for car prowlers across their Northwest neighborhoods.
The PEMCO Insurance Northwest Poll finds only about 1 in 5 respondents (19 percent) say they're extremely or very concerned about car prowls in their neighborhood. Instead, about half (48 percent) admit they're not very or not at all concerned about the threat of a car break-in.
Concern is higher, however, among renters in Washington. Compared to their home-owning counterparts, more renters say they're extremely or very concerned about break-ins (27 percent vs. 19 percent).
In Oregon, renters and homeowners share the same level of concern for car prowls, but age shows a difference in perceptions: About 1 in 5 (18 percent) Oregon drivers under 55 years old say they're extremely or very concerned about theft, compared with just 10 percent of those over 55.
The PEMCO poll finds that younger Oregon residents also are significantly more likely to take precautionary measures like locking their car doors (92 percent vs. 75 percent) and removing their valuables (76 percent v. 63 percent) to stay safe.
"No one likes to come across the heart-sinking signs of a car break-in – shattered glass on the pavement or doors left eerily ajar. That's why we were surprised to learn that people here generally aren't too wary of the threat of car prowls," said PEMCO Spokesperson Derek Wing. "Still, there are some common-sense efforts drivers should make to deter criminals and keep their stuff safe."
Among those surveyed, a majority of drivers say they regularly take basic precautions to prevent break-ins by locking doors and removing valuables. Just under half (45 percent) say they use an electronic alarm system to protect their car and belongings, as well.
Beyond those simple steps, PEMCO recommends following these tips to keep valuable possessions safe from car prowlers:
Never leave your car running unattended, even if you're just going away for a few seconds. If you do need to leave the vehicle, turn the car off, remove the keys and lock the doors so thieves don't have an easy target.
If you park on the street, find a well-lighted area. Good lighting is even more critical if you're parking overnight, as thieves intent on ransacking cars often strike between 3 and 5 a.m.
Don't leave anything in view, no matter what you think it may be worth. Even a few coats left innocently piled on the seat might look like they're hiding something worth stealing.
If you have to leave items in the car, stash them in the trunk, and do it before you park so a prowler doesn't see you. If you don't have a trunk, put belongings out of sight on the floor or under the seat.
"It's a good idea to check your insurance policies, too, for how your belongings might be covered. Often times it's a renters or homeowners policy that covers any damaged or stolen items after a car break-in," Wing said.