Theft should not be taken lightly, but you’ve got to wonder about people who leave valuable stuff in their cars and then gasp with surprise when it’s stolen.
There are simple rules of life that mom and dad taught us before we could drive: tell the truth; wear clean socks; don’t hit your brother. After we learned how to drive, there were other basic rules: adhere to speed limits; don’t brake on curves; don’t cut in front of a cop car in the drive-thru at the doughnut shop; stuff left in the car can easily be stolen.
People obviously go through life with different rulebooks. The one I have says a locked car is secure only as long as there are no rocks or hammers nearby in the possession of thugs unencumbered by social mores against smashing windows and taking what doesn’t belong to them.
If you don’t want it stolen, don’t leave it in the car. That camera and laptop might seem safe sitting on the front seat of your locked Mercedes, but it bears remembering that auto glass is easily smashed and is not nearly as hard as stone or metal.
Police occasionally think they are doing a public service by reminding people to lock their vehicles. Far smarter and sensible was the police officer who some years ago advised the opposite — leave your vehicles unlocked, he said, so aspiring thieves won’t have to shatter an expensive window to find out there is nothing of value inside. Also, an unlocked vehicle sends an instant message that even the dullest of dimwits can interpret: there’s nothing valuable in here, no cash in the glove compartment, no wallet or spare key under the seat.
Of course, some will raise the objection that an unlocked car is more easily stolen. Possibly, but it must be equally true that any thief who knows how to hot-wire a car also knows how to smash a window, rendering the fact of whether a car is locked or not somewhat unimportant.
Proof that a locked car is no defence against thievery is as close by as your dashboard. A local doctor recently had a briefcase stolen
from his car. Two St. John’s bylaw enforcement officers found sheaves of confidential patient records blowing around a downtown parking lot, and gathered them up. Medical school curricula must be difficult enough without professors adding the weighty advice, “When you go into practice, don’t leave confidential patient records in your car.”
Likewise with economists; there are enough professional demands — what with the complexities of interest rates, export deficits and currency fluctuations — that it simply must be too much to expect financial wizards to observe the rule that a valuable widget left in a car will likely become a stolen widget. Bank of Canada governor Mark Carney had classified documents stolen from his limousine in November when his chauffer left the car unattended in Montreal.
Carney: “Any scalawags roaming these streets?”
Driver: “No, sir. This is Montreal. There’s no crime here.”
Carney: “Good. I’ll just leave these documents on the seat until I get back.”
Former NHL coach Pat Burns made headlines last month when he died of cancer, and his widow made headlines this week when she was robbed hours after his funeral. She had left, among other things, jewelry, a watch, credit cards and various bits of hockey memorabilia locked in her car parked overnight in Old Montreal.
“Parked overnight.” It wasn’t even as if she left the car for an hour or two while she went into the church. Bad timing and thievery at its tackiest, to be sure, but Burns — a former cop — probably would have had some practical advice about that.
Brian Jones is a desk editor at The Telegram. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.