Insurance company, police team up to keep cars safer

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - A car is stolen in the US every 26 seconds and the Insurance Information Institute says that is costing consumers billions of dollars every year.

Wednesday, Allstate agent Kevin Shealy teamed up with the Charleston City Police Department to help get vehicle information numbers etched into car windows for free. During the three hour event they etched 39 vehicles.

"That's my livelihood, that's my business, where would I go to replace it? Cars are expensive today," said driver Imogene Thomas.

After having her car etched, she went home and brought back her husband's. "My husband drives an older truck, I thought trucks are going to be very popular since we've done cash for clunkers," said Thomas.

Charleston Police say she's right; older cars are the most popular for thieves since the parts are harder to get legally, and easier to sell on the black market.

"If you have a 94 to 97 Honda Accord, if you have a Dodge Neon, an old Lee Ioccoca minivan, all commonly stolen, Cherokees, Grand Cherokees through the year 2000," said Officer Trevor Shelor.

Stolen cars cost more than $7 billion annually and everyone ends up carrying the cost through higher insurance premiums.

"You're having to pay part of your premium to pay for theft to pay back what ins companies are paying for stolen vehicles," said Shealy. "A lot of times if a thief sees that a car has  the VIN number etched in they'll leave that car alone and go somewhere else."

Police say it's important to protect your car in layers from alarms and VIN number etching, to steering wheel locking systems like the club. "If you rely on one prevention method, someone will come along who knows how to get around that," Shelor said.

And use common sense -- don't leave your keys in the car and always lock your doors.

Wednesday, 39 cars had their VIN numbers etched for free. Normally it can cost more than $100 for the service. The club usually sells for around $25, and Charleston police say they've never had a car reported stolen that was properly using the club.

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