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Auto thefts on the rise in Hampton Roads. How can you protect your car?

An auto mechanic expert explains additional security measures to better keep personal vehicles secure.

NORFOLK, Va. — Auto thefts are a growing problem in Hampton Roads, and now Norfolk police are warning some cars are easier to steal than others. 

Police in Norfolk and in Virginia Beach said they've gotten hundreds of reports of stolen cars, which is significantly more than in previous years. 

In Norfolk, police data shows year-to-date numbers are the highest in four years. Recently, Interim Chief Mike Goldsmith said the city has seen just under 800 stolen cars, so far in 2022. 

Now, police are issuing warnings for owners of certain rides.

According to Norfolk police, vehicles made by Kia after 2011 and Hyundai after 2015 are easier for thieves to hotwire, once the steering column has been removed.

William Baynard, known as "The Wizard," has spent 30 years working on cars in Norfolk. His shop, Wizard's Fabrications, specializes in aftermarket additions, including extra security features. 

Lately, he's hearing every other day from customers worried someone might take their vehicle. 

"Thefts been really high, really, really high," said Baynard. "Seems like every day you hear about four or five cars close to where you are, getting taken." 

Experts suggest visible home surveillance is an option to deter, or at least make criminals think twice, before attempting to steal your car.

But it is possible that car thieves will try to steal vehicles, even if on camera. That's why some experts also recommend adding extra layers of protection to the car. 

"Additional security is always a good option," said Baynard. "Alarms and remote starts, keyless entries. It doesn't have to be all the bells and whistles just to be a simple security system in your car." 

"Buy the device you can stick across your steering wheel, the steering wheel lock that you can put on your car to make sure somebody can't steer it, if they open it up and get it started," Goldsmith recently said during a presentation to Norfolk City Council.

Local authorities also mentioned people can buy wheel clamp boots to stop thieves.

Baynard recommends what's called "an alarm kill switch," which essentially cuts the power with the flip of a switch or device while triggering an alarm. 

"When it's armed, it literally cuts the starter from being able to be started with a key," said Baynard. "So if they jam a screwdriver in there to turn that key, it's still not going to start because it is being interrupted by the alarm."  

Baynard also mentioned shock and glass protection sensors, as advanced deterrents.

It's all about making it harder for the perpetrator! 

However, Norfolk police have said in most cases, drivers are making the thefts easier by not locking doors or leaving running cars unattended. 

Baynard said a simple fix goes a long way.

"Even if you're going in to grab a soda from the store, roll your windows up and lock your doors," he said. "Don't leave your keys in the car." 

Baynard also recommends a simple GPS tracker system in the glove box or center console.

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