One of the major downers about taking a vacation to, or living in Hawaii, is that the rate of car theft, petty theft, and vandalism to vehicles is very high. Always has been, and maybe always will be – who knows? Take some precautions.

In six years of living on the islands, visiting the islands, we’ve not had our vehicle broken into or stolen. Maybe it’s luck, but it is probably that and a combination of doing a few things that can help to prevent your vehicle looking like a good opportunity for petty thieves on the islands.

Tips to Help Avoid Your Vehicle Being Broken Into

1. Park, jump out and go. When you arrive at a beach or another attraction in Hawaii there are often thieves hanging around the parking lot watching people exit their vehicles. Why? They can learn a lot by your body language about whether you might be leaving something of value in your vehicle or not. If you’re standing around the car and talking with your partner about leaving your camera in the trunk, or under the seat, you’re giving off body language that can tell a thief there is something you’re leaving in the car. People leaving something valuable in the car might take too much time to store it away under things. They might spend time looking around to see if anyone is watching. When you pull up to park, be ready to go right away. Don’t hesitate at your car about what to take, know what you’re taking, grab it, and go. Never leave anything at all of value in your vehicle – it isn’t worth the risk. Even just fixing a broken window is a major pain the okole¹!

2. Leave windows open, doors unlocked². Most of you who don’t live on the islands will laugh at this. Your rental car contract might not cover if you leave the windows down or the doors unlocked. If you don’t have an excellent alarm system, this is highly recommended. Every time we parked in a public place, or even at night in front of our home, we left the windows down slightly and the doors open. What this does is basically tell the thieves, you’re a local and you don’t have anything to steal except the car itself. Most thieves are not out to steal the car, it’s too big a liability to be caught for grand-theft. They just want your phone, camera, spare change in the cup holder, etc. They’re looking for money for drugs for their next high.

3. Local stickers. Adding some stickers to your car of local products, surf shops, anything really, will help (not prevent) your vehicle from being broken into. This is only for personal vehicles, thieves know a rental car, whether you cover it in stickers or not. By the way, that’s probably also against the rental contract.

4. Avoid isolated parking. This is like saying, “don’t go explore the islands.” Even the parking at Makapu’u Beach, one of the major beaches on Oahu isn’t visible from the beach. This is one reason the rate of break-ins there has probably set records over the years. There are few break-ins at public parking spots like Sandy’s Beach because everyone can see it. Don’t underestimate the motivation of thieves that need a hit of ice. They’re strongly motivated and all it takes is 10 free seconds to break your window and unlock your door. From there they look like anyone else sitting in your car searching all over for anything of value, even penny change.

5. Park in lighted areas. Parking where others are walking by or that is easily seen from apartment complexes are better areas to park.

6. Use your alarm every time you park. What good is it if you don’t use it? In Florida we had a neighbor that had an excellent alarm on his van. He parked in his driveway, went in to make lunch, came out and it was gone. He didn’t lock it right there in the driveway, thinking it was more than safe in our quiet neighborhood. A fifteen year old stole it and literally drove it like he stole it!

7. Don’t leave any bags visible, thieves will take a chance just to see if there might be a prize for them inside a bag.

8. Use steering wheel locks and security alarm stickers on your windows.

That’s all I’ve got. If anyone has any more good tips to help people avoid break-ins or car theft, let me know with email and I’ll be glad to add it with your name as credit. Vehicle theft and break-ins is a major issue in the islands. Few long-term residents don’t know someone that has had experience with this crime – unfortunately.

¹ Okole means butt in Hawaiian language.
² No, we’re not buying you a new car if it is stolen because you left your doors unlocked!