Hold On to Your Head
After you have gone to all that trouble to select a
car-stereo system that is perfect for you, it's reasonable that you should want to hang
onto it. That's not always easy these days; thieves are as fond of autosound equipment as
you are. One of the main things to remember about people who want to steal your equipment
is that if they are determined enough, there is absolutely nothing you can do to stop
them. But there are a number of things that will discourage them, and send them looking
for easier prey.
One of the thief's greatest enemies is delay. A good
snatch-and-grab man can get a stereo out of a car in seconds, often before passers-by even
notice. The more difficult you make this extraction, the more time it will take, and the
less likely the thief is to try it. To make things as difficult as possible, a number of
companies make accessory frames that bolt your head unit securely to the car's body. While
this will not prevent a really determined thief, it will slow him down.
Of course, if a thief can't see what stereo equipment you
have, he'll have little incentive to break into your car. It's hard to conceal speakers,
of course, which will be a good clue that you have some sort of head unit, but most
robbers are fairly fussy about what they want, and they are less likely to try to steal
equipment if they don't know what it is. Also, they may have to root around to find your
hiding place, and this will take time.
The best place to hide something is in your trunk, and some
equipment is designed for this purpose. Many CD changers are intended to have the main
part of the system hidden away -- a control unit is necessary, of course, but this is
usually fairly inconspicuous.
Thieves are primarily interested in the more expensive,
elaborate pieces of equipment. If they see what appears to be a cheap-and-dirty car radio
in your dash, they may not bother to go after it. One way to accomplish this is to buy a
fake front, which will make your unit look cheap. Not all of these are very convincing,
however, and someone looking to steal your equipment might recognize a particular brand of
panel and decide that if you have gone to the trouble of concealing your head unit, it
must be worth stealing. Also, even if your fake panel is convincing, expensive-looking
speakers may give the game away.
Of course, the best place to conceal a piece of car stereo
is away from the car altogether. Some car-stereo manufacturers offer at least some models
that slide out of their mounts so you can take them with you when you're not in the car.
The main danger with removable head units is that the criminal element knows it's a
nuisance to carry a car stereo around all day. Many people make the mistake of simply
hiding their head units under the seat or in the trunk, and a thief might well take a
chance on breaking into your car in hopes of finding it -- and possibly other expensive
goodies also lurking out of sight.
Perhaps the most popular and practical solution is the
removable faceplate containing all the controls. The bulky part of the head unit remains
in the car, but the vital operating panel can easily be stashed in your pocket.
Unless you drive a rusty old banger with nothing going for
it but the stereo, chances are you'll want to protect more than your sound equipment. The
car is becoming almost as electronics-dominated as the home these days, with more and more
boasting cellular phones, radar detectors, navigation aids, and such high-tech toys. And
the car itself is a traditional target for the criminal element.
Car security systems have become big business in the past
few years, and they have the capability of protecting both the car and its contents. The
best sort of security system, from the car-stereo point of view, is one that sounds an
alarm the moment the electrical system is tampered with. If this is combined with a method
of slowing the thief down, such as a firmly bolted security mount, it may drive him away
before he completes the removal of your equipment.
Don't expect that an alarm system will bring the police
running, or will induce people walking past on the sidewalk to subdue the thief. The value
of such alarms is that they draw attention to the thief, reducing even further the time he
has to do his work. Most will simply cut and run when the alarm goes off, and the majority
won't even make the attempt if they can see some evidence of an operating security system.
In a number of cases, stereo head units can be connected
directly to a car security system, or even form the central control unit of such a system,
and many of these have conspicuous blinking lights on their front panels to warn an
interested thief that the system is present and armed.
One of the subtler techniques for discouraging car-stereo
thieves is the use of a security code, without which a system will not operate. In itself,
such a system cannot prevent the removal of a piece of equipment, but that equipment will
be useless to the thief, or whomever he sells it to. This might offer some cold comfort if
your stereo does get stolen; more important, many thieves are very knowledgeable
about particular components and their capabilities. If they realize that a certain model
contains a security code, they are unlikely to touch it.
No security system is perfect, of course, but today's
devices go a long way toward making your property safe.
...Ian G. Masters