Keep valuables out of plain sight,

by Robert Szostek
U.S. Army Europe Office of the Provost Marshal

U.S. forces personnel in Europe can easily become victims of car break-ins. Satellite navigation devices, laptops, ID cards, gas cards, passports and military clothing are some of the items regularly stolen from cars and vans.

“The main problem is that property is left out in plain view inside military and civilian vehicles,” said Lt. Col. Lon Walker, chief of law enforcement at the U.S. Army Europe Office of the Provost Marshal.

Another problem is that some people who are new to Europe don’t lock their vehicles.

“It is not only important to lock your vehicle when it is unattended, but also the law in some countries in Europe,” Colonel Walker added.

But a locked vehicle alone is no deterrent, he warned. If thieves see something valuable in plain sight inside, they will gladly smash a window or cut open a canvas top to grab it.

“It is best to never leave anything valuable in a car when it is unattended,” Colonel Walker said. “Crooks know all the hiding places for electronic devices.”

If you have to leave something in the car, the trunk is the safest place.
Colonel Walker also pointed out a trick thieves often use to target women driving alone. A thief indicates there is something wrong on the driver’s side of the vehicle, and while the driver is distracted, a second thief opens the passenger-side door or reaches through an open window and steals the driver’s purse.

Colonel Walker offered some advice for travelers who plan on driving in Europe this summer:

• Always lock your car while driving, while getting gas at rest stops and when the vehicle is parked. Locking or securing cars is a requirement in most European countries.

• Keep baggage and valuables out of sight, preferably locked in the trunk. If spending the night, take valuables inside with you.

• If you have a detachable satellite navigation system or radio, always take it out when you leave the car.

• Never leave valuable documents such as passports or ID cards in your vehicle. Always keep them in your possession.

• Maps and guidebooks on the dashboard show that you’re a tourist – keep them in the glove box.

• Keep away from cars driving erratically and never pick up hitchhikers.

For more information, officials suggest contacting a local Provost Marshal Office or downloading National Crime Prevention Council pamphlets on car and vacation security at