This month I will discuss cars and driving in Jamaica.
In my small group of 8 friends who own cars, there have been 4 car thefts in the past two years. This is an alarming statistic suggesting there is a 50% chance your vehicle will be stolen. To add salt to the wound, each stolen car had at least a K-9 alarm or vehicle tracker on it. This of course is not representative of the Jamaican population but surely highlights a real problem that needs to be addressed.
In one of the above-mentioned cases, the car was parked within a gated lot. The thieves were able to breach the compound, open the locked car, start it, drive it onto the road, respectfully lock the gate and escape with the car. The car was tracked to Spanish Town where it was later recovered by King Alarm. Discoveries from this case revealed that car theft in Jamaica is well organized and constitutes many players with varying roles. A video from a security camera in the same community revealed how quickly these criminals can steal a car. I strongly believe they would have received intelligence before their attempts.
What can they do with a stolen vehicle?
While Jamaica is very deficient in several areas, documenting vehicles is not one of them. The registration process is very detailed, making it nearly impossible to have the title of a stolen vehicle transferred to another name. I say nearly because with the help of corrupt government officials this can be done. Vehicle ownership is not the primary goal of thieves. They steal vehicles for two primary reasons; Crime and parts.
Stolen vehicles are often used by criminals as get-away vehicles following robbery or murder. This makes it difficult to trace a crime back to the perpetrators. These vehicles are usually ditched and abandoned or may even be burned following use in criminal activities.
The organized vehicle theft ring, such as the one based in Spanish Town, steals vehicles for parts. If these vehicles are not recovered within hours they will become shells. Vehicle parts are expensive and it really hurts even if you check Bert’s for your auto parts. This pushes demand for more affordable used parts. The sale of these stolen parts is very easy given the demand. There have been occasions where parts have been stolen instead of the entire vehicle. An owner may wake up to find all wheels are gone or a mirror missing.
How to protect your vehicle from theft.
No one method that can protect your car from theft. Thieves are extremely crafty and find interesting ways to counter security measures. These security measures, however, may increase the time it takes thieves to take possession of a vehicle or make recovery possible. Here are my top suggestions.
- Get a reliable and sensitive car alarm. I recommend the K-9 Alarm System as it is one of the most reliable and affordable options.
2. Use a steering wheel lock. They may steal your wheels, but they cannot drive your car!
3. Use a vehicle tracker subscription. This option is excellent for vehicle recovery as you are able to remotely track and shut down your vehicle.
4. Comprehensive Insurance. Yea, I hate the ridiculous yearly bill as well. I’ve donated over half a million in insurance with no claims made. I really wished they had a cashback system to reward good drivers. Anyway, when all else fails this will provide monetary security in the event of theft. I have left my car open before, vulnerable to theft, without worry, knowing that my car is insured for a significant sum. Sometimes I think to myself “dem can gwaan wid it”, before being reminded of the inconveniencing public transport system.
5. Buy a car that is not on the thieves radar.
Hot vehicles on thieves radar right now.
If you own any of the following cars, please ensure you have at least two of the above mentions security systems in place. These cars are popular so scraping them for parts provides thieves with quick sales. If you live in theft-prone communities such as Mona or Hope Pastures, I strongly suggest you avoid buying these cars.
- Toyota Axio
- Toyota Mark X
- Toyota Probox
- Nissan Tiida
- Nissan Latio
- Honda Fit
This in no way means that if your car is not listed you are safe. These thieves steal even pick up trucks nowadays, so you are all at risk. I have comprehensive insurance, car alarm system and my car is extremely rare in Jamaica. That is how I keep my risk low.
In the next edition of the ‘Car Series,’ I will provide a rationale for buying only used cars in Jamaica.