Four years ago — soon after we moved into this house — somebody broke into my car.
We only have room for one vehicle in the garage, so I park on the street. One foggy February morning, I walked to my Ford Focus as usual, opened the back door, and put my stuff on the seat. But when I slammed the door closed, a shower of glass fell to the ground. Somebody had smashed the driver's window.
I didn't have time to mess around with the broken window, so I swept the glass from the seat and drove to work. It was cold. On the way, I tried to inventory the damage. Only the one window was broken. All of my CDs still seemed to be there (who would want to steal music from the 1920s?), but my cell phone was gone. (The stupid thief had left the charger to which it had been connected.) That was all that was missing from the front seat.
When I got to work, I searched the rest of the car. Nothing in the back seat was taken, which was good, because I had both my personal and my business checkbook sitting in plain view, with checks made out to both accounts from various sources. And I had my business credit card there, too. (Yes, this was very stupid of me.) But it was when I checked the trunk that my heart sank. My bag of camera equipment was gone. I was missing a small fortune in lenses and filters and more. I cursed my carelessness.
I reported the theft to the police, and they took down a report. The woman I talked to was sympathetic, but not hopeful. “There's been a rash of car burglaries in your neighborhood,” she said.
“Is there anything I can do?” I asked. “Is it better to park in the driveway instead of on the street? Should I lock the door? Keep it unlocked?”
“It doesn't matter,” she said. “A determined burglar is going to get in. If it were my car, I'd leave it unlocked, because then at least there's less chance of having the window smashed.”
Ever since, I've left my car unlocked when I park it on the street — which is every day. And I never leave anything of value in the vehicle anymore.
A month later, a friend found my camera equipment. The burglar had dumped it in the bushes by the corner of our property. He had apparently gone through the bag looking for valuables, not realizing the camera gear itself was worth a couple thousand bucks. After a little clean up, the equipment was fine.
I was fortunate my foolishness did not cost me more.
The next year, a thief broke into Kris' car. Maybe it was a different thief. Maybe not. Fortunately, Kris doesn't keep anything of value in her vehicle. In fact, there's rarely anything in the cabin at all.
When the burglar's search came up empty, he popped the trunk. That's when he found the jackpot: jumper cables. That's right — a burglar ransacked Kris' car, and all he took was jumper cables. I can't even begin to imagine what was going through this his head.
Fast forward a couple of years. I've been parking on the street without incident since that first act of vandalism. I keep my doors unlocked and there are no valuables in the car — unless you count my CDs of music from the 1920s.
Today I went out to run some errands. When I got into the car, I was surprised to find my water bottle on the floor. “That's odd,” I thought. And then I realized…I'd been burgled again. I performed a quick survey. Trash on the floor of the back seat? Check. CDs of music from the 1920s? Check. Everything in the glove compartment? Check. iPod transmitter? Uh, no. Parking-meter change? Also gone.
Sometime during the past few days, a thief — possibly the same thief as three years ago — broke into my car and stole an iPod transmitter and a handful of quarters, nickels, and dimes. He didn't steal anything else because there was nothing else to steal. He didn't smash my window because the door was left unlocked. All he got was a cheap electronic device and enough change for a two-liter bottle of soda. I hope he's having a good time.
Sometimes when bad things happen to me, I get tense. I get frustrated. But for some reason, none of these thefts bother me. Maybe it's because the burglar hasn't actually absconded with much: just a cell phone, an iPod transmitter, some jumper cables, and a handful of change. Still, it would be nice if I didn't have to worry about thieves breaking into my car…
Do you have any suggestions? Have you ever experienced a similar problem? Is it even worth my time to take further precautions? Have I exhausted the statistical likelihood that a burglar will break into our cars again? (I mean three times in four years — come on! Go pick on somebody else.)
Author: J.D. Roth
In 2006, J.D. founded Get Rich Slowly to document his quest to get out of debt. Over time, he learned how to save and how to invest. Today, he's managed to reach early retirement! He wants to help you master your money — and your life. No scams. No gimmicks. Just smart money advice to help you reach your goals.