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Car and Home Safety Tips (Sometimes the 2 Are Related)

October 6, 2010 · 110 comments

in Car/Driving, Home & Garden, Misc Tips

This past weekend, our school had a giant picnic.  There was a lot of activity going on and the parking lot was busy.  However, some hooligans were able to break some car windows and steal stereos and manufacturer-installed GPS systems.  It was shocking how bold these thieves were considering the amount of people that were coming and going.

After discussing the break-ins, I got thinking about how your car can actually affect the safety of your home.  Sounds confusing I know, but consider the following three points:

  1. If you have private information on your GPS and it is stolen, the criminals will have access to that information.  For example, say you drive a fancy car that is broken into.  Thieves steal your GPS, and your GPS clearly states ‘home’ as a destination.  Now criminals know where there may be a fancy house too, and may be paying you another visit.
  2. Many newer cars have the ability to program the garage door opener to interact with the car itself.  One night you park your car in the driveway because you are painting something in your garage, and evil-doers break into your car.  Now they don’t have access to just your car, but now they can open your garage door and access the garage and/or your house.  The same is true for regular garage door openers.  In the case of a garage door opener, a thief could just grab it and come back later- before you even realize your opener is gone.
  3. On the positive side, you can use your car alarm from inside the house if you sense a break-in.  (Assuming you don’t have a home alarm system already installed.)  For example, when my husband is out of town and it is just me and the kids at home, I always take my car keys and put them on my nightstand when I go to bed.  If anyone ever breaks into the house (which I sure hope never happens), I will hit the alarm on my car FOB, which will hopefully scare someone away, or will at least alert the neighbors.  Not a perfect solution, I know, but I suppose it is better than nothing.

Overall, it is best if you can eliminate access to your home from your car.  If your car is pre-programmed to access the garage, make sure the door is locked from your house to the garage, and also make sure you don’t have anything of value in the garage.  (Assuming you sometimes park in the street or driveway.)

If you are parked in the driveway or street, take your garage door opener with you when you leave the car, along with your phone and purse.  Thieves around here are getting braver and braver, and the less you leave in the car, the better.  You definitely do not ever want to leave anything within sight that a thief might find interesting, including personal information.

Have you ever considered how your car can provide access to your home?  Or, am I just being a bit neurotic?  Feel free to share – I can take it!

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{ 34 comments… read them below or add one }

The Biz of Life October 6, 2010 at 8:06 am

Sounds like good advice to me. Most people will have their home address stored in their GPS, which gives the criminals another potential target. And by all means, remove any access into your house from your car.


Kris October 6, 2010 at 10:25 am

Hey Biz – glad you agree. As I was typing, I didn’t know if I was starting sound too neurotic!


Nicole October 6, 2010 at 8:31 am

I never thought about why we always lock the door between the house and the garage, but this must be why. (We do it because we were brought up that way.) Come to think of it, our garage door opener was stolen once when I was a kid.


Kris October 6, 2010 at 10:27 am

Nicole – so you have always had to use a key and unlock the door between the garage and house? I have to say, I have not always been so diligent. One thing I do make sure of is I never leave my garage door open anymore. Some thieves have been looking for people in the backyard where I live and then sneak in the house through an open garage and steal things. Very bold!


Nicole October 6, 2010 at 7:40 pm

Ayup. Both the lock knobby thingy that you can lock without a key and the deadbolt. My mom also checks to make sure the stove is off about 10 times before we get out of the driveway. I only do that once.


Car Negotiation Coach October 6, 2010 at 8:43 am

These are great tips and I’ve heard about thieves looking for GPS “Home”.

Since you’ll probably leave your GPS in your car once in a while, the easiest thing to do is to remove any traces of your home address. You can change the name from “Home” to your dog or some secret passphrase only you would know, and don’t leave your insurance/registration (which has your address) in the car.


Kris October 6, 2010 at 10:28 am

My Garmin has a place to store ‘home’, but I don’t use it. I just type it in whenever I want to use it. I don’t even trust my house to be in my ‘recent locations’. I need to look at my GPS more closely to see how to program it better though.


Roshawn @ Watson Inc October 6, 2010 at 9:41 am

Unfortunately, I have “seen” all these things happen. It is true that it was on Law and Order ABC :), but this is prudent advice nonetheless. I like your tip of using the car alarm as a home alarm.


Kris October 6, 2010 at 10:29 am

Roshawn- I don’t remember when I started putting my keys on my nightstand, but it does make me feel safer. I hope I never have to find out how affective it is…


Little House October 6, 2010 at 9:53 am

I’m fortunate that my garage is detached from my house or I’d be really worried right now! I can see where keeping a garage door opener in the car would give criminals easy access to your house if the garage was attached. I keep one in my car and on my bike; if we eventually move to an attached garage house, I’ll have to keep these tips in mind!


Kris October 6, 2010 at 10:30 am

Little House – I didn’t mean to worry you!

I do love an attached garage, I just have to remember that it really is part of my house. I would never leave a key to my house in the driveway, so I try to remember that the garage door opener is really the same thing.


Sandy L October 6, 2010 at 12:21 pm

Knock on wood. I’m glad I’m in a neighborhood where that type of stuff never happens.

Plus, I have a rotten old lady nosy neighbor who although unpleasant, also makes a pretty nice watch dog.


Kris October 6, 2010 at 12:58 pm

Sandy – Nosy neighbors do have their place at times! However, just be careful because the city I live in is literally in the top 20 safest in the country, and we still have break-ins.


etinca October 6, 2010 at 1:03 pm

Hmmm – I am in the camp that figures the odds of the random car thief deciding to hit my street on the one night I parked in the driveway in this scenario are so low, I probably wouldn’t think about taking extra precautions for a short period.

And although we are in a small town on a small street, I am not convinced the neighbors would pay any attention to the car alarm, although I agree it might scare off an amateur intruder (we have a phone by the bed & would probably call a neighbor as well as 911).


Kris October 6, 2010 at 1:35 pm

Etinca – I do agree, odds may be slim, but I would rather be safe than sorry. Maybe it is because our car was vandalized (mirror on door knocked off with baseball bat) the only night it was parked in the street the entire year.

I would personally rather call 911 than rely on a car alarm if I could only do one. However, it takes a nano second to hit the car alarm button, so I like the idea of it being available as an option.


Aloysa October 6, 2010 at 1:11 pm

Just happened a few days ago… My friend parked her car in the garage, leaving her purse inside. That night a robber smashed a window, stole the purse, and scared the whole household to death. She had all her c/cards, her driver’s lic, pretty much all her life was in that purse. We all should be careful what we leave in our cars. Nothing is off limits…


Kris October 6, 2010 at 1:36 pm

Aloysa – that is horrible! I assume the garage door was left open? That must have been terrifying!!


Aloysa October 7, 2010 at 1:14 pm

Yes, they they left the garage door open. Don’t ask me why!


Suba @ Wealth Informatics October 6, 2010 at 5:40 pm

I never leave my purse or anything valuable in the car. My husband things I am nuts. I never thought about the home address is GPS, though it is a very old north east address while we live in CA 😉 But I agree with you it is sooo much easier to find information these days. I like the idea of using car alarm to scare at least the amateur thieves…


Kris October 6, 2010 at 10:02 pm

Suba – I don’t think you are nuts! 🙂


Squirrelers October 6, 2010 at 6:09 pm

Good tips. I hadn’t thought of the GPS angle, with “Home” noted, but that’s a really good point. If one has a garage door opener in the car, it’s easy for some hoodlum to connect the dots and do same damage.

Maybe fingerprint activation of garage openers would be a good idea, where only a select few could utilize it.


Nicole October 6, 2010 at 7:42 pm

I do not recommend the fingerprint scanners– they are very easy to hack (I know this from personal experience… though there was also a mythbusters episode).


Kris October 6, 2010 at 10:04 pm

Hey Squirreler – I don’t know much about fingerprint devices, it is an interesting thought. We do have one of those keypads to open our garage door that requires a four digit code. I love it as it has saved me a few times from being locked out of the house.


iamtheworkingpoor October 6, 2010 at 6:47 pm

I park in my driveway, leave no valuables inside, and lock all doors. Every entrance to my home is locked as well. I don’t own a GPS, a cell phone, a garage door opener, or a car alarm. That’s less for me to worry about I guess. 🙂

As far as the car alarm helping with security, have you watched one go off in a parking lot? People have become so desensitized to those constant alarms that they completely ignore them. I imagine the alarm would have to be on for a while before someone would be annoyed enough to investigate.


Kris October 6, 2010 at 10:10 pm

Oh I totally don’t think activating the car alarm would guarantee safety. However, it may do enough to deter a criminal, and if it happened at 3:00 am, I think my neighbor would notice and call us.


Money Reasons October 6, 2010 at 10:28 pm

Great thoughts! I tweeted this one Kris (sorry I was so late in the day though)!

Although I don’t have to worry about my Garmin (I have an old Toyota Sienna), I could see where if one had a nicer car… that should definitely be taken into consideration.

Is there a way to set a password on the Garmin? I know we don’t use a password, but perhaps this would be a good tip for those with fancier cars!

I like the idea of having the car keys by the night stand!


Kris October 7, 2010 at 9:03 pm

Hey Money Reasons – I don’t know much about the functionality of a Garmin because I bought ours for my husband for Father’s Day, and I barely ever use it, except on vacation.

Thanks for the Tweet!!


Andrew October 7, 2010 at 6:45 am

Good thoughts on the “home” setting for the Garmin. I keep it in the glove box, as there’s been many instances where we’ve been out and needed it and it’s not been in the truck. I may re-think that. We do NOT leave it in plain sight, even if stopping for gas and snacks. Driving a (paid-for) 10-year-old non-descript vehicle helps with a keeping a low profile.
As for home security, even though we live in an area where home burglary is rare and carries serious occupational hazards for the thief (Oklahoma), we take it seriously enough to turn on the house alarm every night and when we leave. Garage burglary is more common, we’ve had several in our neighborhood, even during the day. We always lock the door between the garage and the house. I suspect that thieving criminals may take the opportunity to check the door to the house to see if it’s open. On alarms in general, I trust our 6 pound poodle (our backup dog, the main dog is dumber than a box of rocks) more than I trust the house alarm. The poodle will know if anyone is within 30 feet of the house, and barks his head off if they get within 3 feet of his “territory”. It’s sometimes annoying, as “anyone” includes the UPS guy, but he’s just doing his job. If we were to live in the countryside, we’d probably keep a flock of guinea fowl as an early-warning system (and for bug control).


Kris October 7, 2010 at 9:02 pm

Andrew – I like the image of a dog just sitting around that is dumber than a box of rocks. Post of picture of that dog on your website! 🙂 Those little dogs do seem to be the best protectors. At least they can wake up the house if nothing else. I have even read before that you should leave dog bowls outside to give the impression you have a dog, even if you don’t.

Don’t think your truck is off limits because it’s old. My friend’s rusty, 10 year old Grand Am was stolen in the middle of the day once. I think often thieves are much more interested in what is inside the car than the car itself. (So Andrew, make sure you keep your purse with you at all times. 🙂 )


Andrew October 8, 2010 at 7:16 am

Pictures coming right up. The poodle is also known as “Spy Dog Mission Impossible” on youtube. Dog bowls are probably a good idea, as would be a “beware of dog” sign on the back fence.

You’re right, the truck is not strictly off limits to thieves because it’s old. But it’s certainly lower profile.


Crystal @ BFS October 7, 2010 at 12:29 pm

After we saw a Criminal Minds episode where the psychotic (valet parker by day) used the GPS to go torture women for days at their house, we no longer have our home programmed into our GPS. We also always park in the garage so our openers can stay in our cars. 🙂


Kris October 7, 2010 at 9:04 pm

BFS – Yikes, that’s a scary Criminal Minds show. I would be up all night if I saw that!


Andrew @ Money Crashers October 10, 2010 at 12:59 am

Wow Kris, this is truly eye opening. I never thought how much more danger you could be in if your car got broken into, or if your GPS got stolen. I just figured to hide your GPS if possible and that’s the best you can do. Didn’t realize having a “Home” on it would actually lead them to your home but it makes total sense. Thanks for the heads up here. Great stuff!


Shelly Slader August 2, 2013 at 4:47 pm

Always wear a seat belt! Always always always! My daughter got in an accident. We had to repair all the window glass in Edmonton because it was so bad. Luckily, she had her seat belt on, which is the only thing that saved her life. Always wear a seat belt!!


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