More Advice for Aspiring Detroiters
This week’s cover story about aspiring Detroiters is out on stands now, and we’re heartened to see responses on social networking suggesting it’s an important read for those who want to move to Detroit and aid in the city’s recovery. The conversation hit a number of major topics, and didn’t shy away from such challenging issues as class and race. And that’s a good thing.
Yet, there was one topic that didn’t really get touched on that is of vital, practical importance to those moving into Detroit for the first time: how to safeguard your car.
Not to place undue emphasis on it, but Detroit has big-city problems just like any other American urban center. And there are some things you should know before your park your car.
Leave no valuables in your car. Ever. Not even change in the cupholder. Certainly not a phone or a laptop or a musical instrument. This is important, because when people leave valuables in their cars, their cars tend to get broken into, and then the people who left said valuables in their car crab, “I’m not going to Detroit. My car will get broken into again!” We don’t mean to dismiss people who are victims of burglary, or blame them for what happened. Frankly, people should be able to leave bars of gold on their dashboard and feel secure that they’ll be there when they return. But we know that’s not the case, right? So just think of it as keeping all those “honest” people who’ll pass by your car as honest as possible by not tempting them in the first place.
Don’t lock your doors. Believe it or not, we know plenty of longtime Detroiters who don’t leave any valuables in their cars and, therefore, don’t lock the doors. Somebody wants to root around in the glove compartment? Let them try. It’s empty. So if you have nothing to steal, you’ve just given any really enterprising thief no reason to break a window.
Drive a stick shift. When you drive a car with a manual transmission, you have just ruled out about 90 percent of joyriding Detroit car thieves. These are the cars that are least likely to be stolen. If they are stolen, chances are that you can get a friend to drive you in a spiral pattern from where it was taken and will find it, stalled out in an intersection. Plus, the cars that seem to get stolen the most are all automatics. Minivans seem to get stolen a lot: Mercury Villagers, Dodge Caravans, etc. And don’t even think of parking any late ’80s Dodges or Chryslers after dark. You can start some of them with a screwdriver.
There is one car that will never be stolen. You’re probably thinking that it’s the one whose owner has removed the battery for the night, or the car that has a kill switch cleverly hidden, or the one with the steering wheel locked and a chain wrapped from the wheel down around the brake, or something like that. No, those are not the cars we mean. There is one method to prevent theft that seems almost foolproof. We call it the “sea of crap” method. If your car is full of so much crap, old newspapers, laundry and old soda cups that you cannot see the seats, your car will not be stolen simply because nobody wants to rummage through all that stuff. One friend suggested a drop-down device that looked like a sea of crap, but cleverly dropped from the ceiling of the car to make it look jammed with junk; though we laughed, we’d like to see the thing work.