Tim Chitwood

Leaving valuables in plain sight can lead to depressing and bothersome car break-ins

If you didn’t get the hint from Facebook unfriending of immediate family and lifelong associates over political postings, studies confirm that spending too much time on social media can cause anxiety and depression.

So it was depressing and worrisome to see on Facebook last week that police still have to warn locals not to leave all their expensive stuff out on their car seats after they park and walk away, especially if they leave the cars unlocked and the motors running.

Telling people their stuff will be stolen if they do that seems so obvious a warning it’s akin to signs and handbills you see in wilderness areas where people from the city go on vacation. (“Do not pet the bison. They are not cows ... although cows kill 22 people every year, so don’t pet the cows either.”)

Here’s an excerpt of the police post, reprinted here so you don’t have to go social media to see it and wind up anxious and depressed:

“Although our reported burglary numbers may be down, our reported stolen vehicle and car break-in numbers are still keeping us super busy! … Please do not ever leave firearms, identification documents, or bank cards in your vehicles. Please do not leave your vehicles running while unattended, even to run into a gas station or store. Please do not leave spare keys inside of vehicles, whether it is the spare key to that vehicle or the other vehicle sitting in your driveway. We know vehicle owners are worried about vehicles being damaged, but the majority of our car break-ins are juveniles pulling on door handles to see if vehicles are unlocked.”

Yet like summer tourists menaced by killer cows, people ignore such warnings, leave their valuable electronics and purses and wallets lying in plain sight, and just walk away.

“They’re surprised as hell” when they come back and their car’s ransacked or, if left running, not there anymore, an officer said.

Most depressing is that some leave loaded guns in their cars, and thus arm a thief with a valuable, deadly weapon.

Trash talk

That’s why I never keep a gun in the car. My strategy on car break-ins not only is to keep nothing valuable in the vehicle, but to leave all my trash instead, such as:

Burger King wrappers and cups, Subway sandwich receipts, half-empty water bottles, dirty sweat towels, old sunscreen, broken umbrellas, and professional reporter’s notebooks – which can be used only by professional reporters, because they say so on the cover.

The theory is that thieves looking into the car will see trash a foot deep and think, “This guy’s a pig,” and therefore, “I’m not digging through this pig’s $#@%.”

Who could blame them? It’s called a “smash and grab” larceny, not a “dig through six months’ floorboard detritus” attempted theft.

This defense worked, in the sense no one stole anything, as far as I know, as I assume I keep losing things because they’re buried in trash.

Piling trash inside the car did not, however, keep someone from crawling under it, cutting the exhaust pipe and stealing the catalytic converter, apparently just for scrap.

How do you know when your catalytic converter has been stolen? You start your car and the exhaust pipe pops like an old motorcycle straining under the owner’s weight.

Then you look under the car and see a gap in the pipe, and on the pavement below, a little piece of it, a metal ring about an inch long.

I kept that ring. It reminds me the space between the pavement and a sedan’s undercarriage is as tight as a coat box, about 10 inches, so someone had to squeeze in there to saw the pipe apart.

Whoever did that might get run over, one day, when he’s under a car whose owner has to leave in a hurry – like his girlfriend just went into labor and he had to tell his wife. The driver will cut the wheel hard and burn rubber backing out, and ba-bump-bump.

“That guy sure could use a hacksaw in a tight space,” co-defendants will say at the funeral.

Otherwise it’s hard to catch a thief cutting your catalytic converter loose.

Especially if he’s armed with a loaded gun someone left in an unlocked car.