‘Lock, Take and Hide’ signs educate motorists about auto burglaries
The holiday season is a busy time for shopping — and for crime involving cars. Parking lots full of cars stuffed with merchandise are a smorgasbord for thieves.
Now, a growing consumer awareness campaign aims to remind people to protect their car and any belongings in it. Signs placed in busy parking areas advocate three simple, common-sense actions:
HIDE your belongings
LOCK your car
TAKE your keys
The program, which goes by the names “Lock, Take and Hide” and “Hide, Lock and Take,” began in downtown Dallas in 2001. At the time, with auto theft and burglary related to 41 percent of the city’s overall crime, Dallas’ Central Business District and the Texas Auto Theft Prevention Authority came together to create the campaign. The goal was to reduce the opportunity for crime by educating drivers about how to keep their cars from being easy targets.
|El Paso, Texas, is one of the latest cities to post signs like this in an effort to thwart auto burglaries.|
By 2004, the program was seen as such a success that the City of Dallas adopted an ordinance requiring all properties with more than 100 parking spaces to put up the signs. The program also spread to the suburbs as well as to other cities around the state. Although it remains primarily focused on Texas, other states have expressed interest; signs have appeared in cities from North Carolina to Oregon.
Now, a partnership between the Insurance Council of Texas and State Farm Insurance is paying for more than a thousand new signs to go up in El Paso and other cities around the Lone Star State. Mark Hanna, a spokesman for the Insurance Council of Texas, notes that even one less car stolen in a city can make the program cost-effective.
“It’s educating the motorist,” Hanna says. “It’s also telling criminals that more eyes and more law enforcement officials are focused on this particular area.”
Do simple signs really translate into fewer auto related crimes? After all, about 100,000 cars are stolen and 250,000 burglarized annually in Texas. Figures on the effects of the program are hard to come by. But in fast-growing Frisco, Texas, which first put up the signs in 2007, a recent analysis by the Police Department concluded that holiday season vehicle burglaries in the suburb’s busy shopping district have dropped 87 percent since the program began.
“The Lock, Take and Hide program has been extremely successful here in Frisco,” police Sgt. Adam Henderson says.
Henderson notes that the popularity of the signs sometimes makes it challenging for the department to keep up with demand. “I even had an individual with a day care (center) call the other day asking for a sign,” he says.
Nonetheless, the need for education remains. Henderson says unlocked cars are the targets of 40 percent of vehicle burglaries in Frisco.
So, in Frisco and other cities, do more signs mean lower rates for auto insurance? That’s a tough question to answer. Yet it’s plausible that the program has benefited insurance shoppers as well as mall shoppers. Hanna lays out the straightforward logic: “The fewer the claims, the better the rates.”