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Friday, Feb 10 2012 11:04 PM

OUR VIEW: Countering our recent rash of car thefts

By The Bakersfield Californian

Hondas are popular vehicles with college students and car thieves alike. That helps explain the rash of Honda thefts at Bakersfield College last week. Late-1990s Hondas make up nearly one-third of the 5,000 vehicles parked on that campus every day -- and they consistently top the list of most stolen vehicles.

Thieves target them because they are easy to break into, have valuable parts and are commonly converted into street racers. A ground-down Honda key will allow thieves access to most other Honda vehicles -- and that's exactly what the suspected community-college culprits were found to possess last week. Thieves are typically after car parts that are often worth more than the car itself. According to AOL Autos, while the Kelly Blue Book pegs the value of a four-door 1994 Honda in excellent condition at $1,900, the value of just three of its parts alone is almost $1,200: the fuel line ($350), antilock brake parts ($450) and air conditioner compressor ($350). The engines are particularly sought after by street racers who use them to replace damaged engines in older cars.

With that in mind, here are some tips on how to protect your car from theft:

* It may seem like a no-brainer, but the first layer of protection is common sense: always lock your doors, close windows, keep valuables out of sight and park in a high-traffic area -- near stores, buildings and lighted areas.

* Let thieves know the car is protected. Install a visible device such as steering wheel club, tire or brake locks, or an audible alarm. Like most criminals, car thieves prefer easy targets and won't want to work too hard to get a vehicle.

* The next step is to install an immobilizing device. These prevent thieves from hot-wiring the vehicle and can include keys with computer chips or switches that disable the ignition or fuel supply to the engine.

* A GPS tracking device installed in a discreet location is effective in helping authorities trace the vehicle once it's stolen and allowing the owner to recover it.

Cost will determine how far you go in outfitting a vehicle with anti-theft protection. The technologies mentioned here can range anywhere from $200 to more than $1,000. Also remember that theft is only covered by comprehensive car insurance, so be sure to check your policy.

And don't be lulled into a false sense of confidence just because you don't own a Honda. After the Civic and Accord, the most stolen vehicles in California last year were the 1989 Toyota Camry, 1994 Acura Integra, 1994 Nissan Sentra, 2003 Toyota Corolla, and 1999 Chevrolet pickup.

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