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Summer is a hot time for car theft and break-ins.

July and August are the top months for these crimes in Washington, D.C., according to AAA Mid-Atlantic.  Since June 1, there have been 655 vehicles stolen in the District, with 287 of the thefts happening in July.

That figure is down from last year, when 703 vehicles were taken during the same time period and 342 stolen in July.

However, while there is a decrease in summer car thefts, summer vehicle burglaries are up.  There have been 2,310 thefts from cars reported since June 1, up from 2,042 last year.

“It is significant that despite owning vehicles equipped with state-of-the- art anti-theft technology, in four out of five auto theft cases motorists absent-mindedly leave their car doors unlocked, research shows, and in one out of five motor vehicle thefts the motorist makes the all too common mistake of leaving the keys in the ignition,” said John B. Townsend II, AAA Mid-Atlantic’s Manager of Public and Government Affairs.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) says a car is stolen every 44 seconds across the country.

Here are seven tips AAA Insurance recommends to prevent vehicle thefts and burglaries:

  • Get your VIN etched. Having the VIN number of your vehicle etched in each piece of glass can be an effective theft deterrent as a thief would have to replace all the glass on the vehicle, cutting into profit margins. “Radios and wheel covers aren’t the only popular stolen vehicle parts thieves take. They want whatever sells, from the mandated labeled parts to those that aren’t,” explains NHTSA.
  •  Always lock your vehicle with the windows closed. Even if you park your vehicle in a garage, this simple measure is added security. 3. Never leave belongings out in the open In your car because they could tempt thieves. “One of the most common types of theft is theft of valuables from your automobile,” advises the Metropolitan Police Department. “Theft from auto is strictly a crime of opportunity that can be prevented if you take away the opportunity.”
  •  Never leave your keys in your vehicle or leave your vehicle running any time you are not in it.
  •  Keep your vehicle in secure, well-lit areas. When possible, park in a locked garage. Also, consider installing a motion-activated floodlight that illuminates the place where your vehicle is parked.
  •  Use anti-theft or automatic tracking devices. If your vehicle wasn’t equipped with an alarm or hidden tracking device when purchased, have one installed.
  •  Remove spare keys from vehicle. Never hide a spare ignition key in or around your vehicle.
 Numbers in Depth

As of Aug. 7, there have been 1,738 car thefts in the District this year and 6,589 car break-ins, both up 2.5 and 6.2 percent respectively compared to the same period last year, according to the D.C. crime map database. These are the only categories of property crime that have seen an increase so far year-over-year.

Montgomery and Prince George’s counties saw decreases in car thefts last year compared to 2013.  According to AAA Mid-Atlantic, 3,543 vehicles were stolen in Prince George’s County, down from 4,293 thefts the previous year.  That’s a 16.6 percent drop.  In Montgomery County, there were 845 thefts in 2014, a 2.5 percent drop from 2013.

Both Prince George’s and Montgomery counties are larger municipalities than D.C., each with populations of about 890,000 and one million, respectively.

For a more equal comparison, Baltimore has had 2,454 car thefts so far this year, a roughly 12 percent increase over the same period in 2014, according to AAA Mid-Atlantic.  That’s 41.2 percent more car thefts than Washington.  However, Baltimore has had 3,539 reports of cars being broken into so far this year, about level with last year.  That figure is 46 percent lower than Washington.

In all of 2014, AAA Mid-Atlantic found that there were 7,696 stolen cars in the entire Commonwealth of Virginia.  That was also a decrease from 2013, down from 8,318, or about 8 percent.

“Eighty-one percent of all motor vehicle thefts reported in Virginia are in three areas of the state: Tidewater, Northern Virginia and Richmond (based on average from 1989-2013; the figure for 2013 alone is approximately 76 percent),” notes the Virginia State Police. “A little over 52 percent of the motor vehicle thefts reported in Virginia occur in independent cities.”