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Audible Car Alarms: a nuisance or an effective deterrent?

We've all been walking through a parking lot at a shopping mall or been home and heard the sound in the distance; the sound of a car alarm wailing away in protest at having been disturbed. Most of the time these disturbances have been the result of someone walking too close to the car, bumping it, or the owner simply doing something to set it off, so in general...we ignore it. Doesn't that defeat the purpose of having one, however? Isn't it meant to draw the attention of passerby and (hopefully) a good Samaritan in case the car is being violated by a thief? Many people tend to regard audible alarms as a nuisance more than as a deterrent, especially if you live near one that has a regular habit of going off in the early morning hours. Stories abound of neighbors calling the police and demanding the towing or removal of an offending vehicle and its overly-sensitive alarm. Are these devices effective? Do they do what they are meant to do in exchange for this public nuisance?

They Do Work...sort of

To the extent that an alert sounds a loud and clear warning which draws even minimal attention to the area, they do function to deter theft. The fastest thieves in the world can literally break into a car, disable an any anti-theft deterrent, start the ignition and drive away in less than 20 seconds. These thieves, however, would much rather perform their trade on cars or trucks that are not alarmed and they will actively seek out cars without them over cars that do have them. When it comes down to it, however, with more cars possessing them today than ever before, the option to find a vehicle without one is becoming rare, so thieves are becoming bolder about approaching vehicles with advanced theft deterrent devices on them.

What Can I Do About It?

Car alarms are a proven deterrent, which is the reason why most insurance companies will give you a discount on your comprehensive (theft) coverage if your car has one. Statistically, a car or truck with a "visible" active audio car alarm is more than 40% less likely to be targeted by a car thief. What do you do if you hear an alert go off? What can be done as a passerby to help improve the effectiveness of audio alarms is to take a moment to do more than glance in the direction of a car alarm as it starts to go off. Sometimes it is the car owner who may be fiddling with their keys or their kids and trying to press the button to deactivate it. If they are alone, you should take a second look. Is the person that is getting into the vehicle bent down and messing with the steering column? If there is anything suspicious going on, get on your cell phone and call 911. Report the make, model and license plate # if you can see it. If the car is driving away, note its direction and what street it turns onto from where it was parked. It is a good Samaritan service that you would probably appreciate if it were your automobile. If you wish to protect your vehicle, there are alternative methods to audible car alarms that are very popular and just as effective (though some may not get you the insurance discount). Some of the newer devices actually page the car owner when the automobile is disturbed rather than emitting an audible alert. There are passive systems installed on most GM vehicles that include a chip embedded in the car key that sends a signal to the vehicle when it is inserted into the steering column. Unless the car detects this chip, the automobile will not start under any circumstances. Other passive systems such as LoJack, will not alert a thief to the fact that the car is probably being traced by the police via satellite GPS technology.

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