According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau, auto theft costs consumers more than $8 billion annually. Today’s thieves typically are not teens out for a joy ride, but rather professionals involved with organized theft rings. While car thieves do like luxury cars, they mainly focus on the more popular vehicles: Hondas, Toyotas and Chevy pickups. These in-demand vehicles can be stripped down in less than 30 minutes and sold for parts or shipped abroad. That means car owners need to take extra measures to protect their vehicles from sophisticated criminals. The good news is that, with a combination of approaches, it is possible to achieve a strong defense against vehicle theft. The first step is to use common-sense measures. Never leave keys in the car with the engine running. Don’t hide a spare key in the vehicle. Close all windows and lock all doors when leaving your vehicle. Park in a well-lit area and, when at home, keep your car in the garage. Don’t leave valuables in your car. The next step is to use theft-prevention products. A thief is less inclined to steal your car when it has visible and audible warning devices like a wheel lock or alarm system. Immobilizers – which include smart keys, kill switches and fuel cut-off devices – offer another means of protection. Keep in mind that these will help deter some thieves, but a professional still can outsmart them all. The third step, which many police officers say is most important, is to have a tracking and recovery system. The most effective systems connect directly to law enforcement agencies, use radio frequency technology and are covert so they cannot be disengaged – like the LoJack system, for example. Systems that use only global positioning system technology often present tracking limitations. Remember, the best theft protection is a combination of common sense, audible or visual alarms and a recovery system that will get your vehicle back if it is ever stolen.