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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Urban Coral Atoll

Those inexperienced with urban auto break-ins will often leave valuables in plain view in a parked car on the streets of New York City. If warned, their corrective behavior is often to only leave things of no value, perhaps in a bag. But the problem is that only they know it contains nothing of value. Anything whose contents cannot be seen by others is also a target. Thieves will break into an car if there is virtually anything of any value (or anything which may contain something of value) in plain view.

Breaking a window is a quick and easy way to find out. The telltale evidence of an auto break-in is the small broken round or cuboid bits of glass (a safety feature of tempered glass used in automobile windows) found curbside.

In much of Manhattan, this is now seen very infrequently, compared to the days of the 1970s-80s, when this was an all too familiar sight. Car radios were a frequent target, resulting in the ubiquitous "No Radio" signs. Many installed removable radio and cassette player systems, while others removed them completely. Convertibles were often slashed.

Many owners of luxury cars opt to leave cars unlocked in order to avoid damage to their vehicles. You will occasionally see luxury convertibles, top down, parked unattended in the streets of New York City, a clear signal to potential miscreants that there is absolutely nothing of value in this vehicle.

At one time, in an anemic attempt to prevent break-ins, alarms were a standard in virtually every car. Car alarms are virtually useless. Studies have shown they are essentially no deterrent; thieves hit and run before any response to an alarm is possible. Plus, alarms are most often triggered by the rumble of passing trucks, thunder, or any other number of events other than theft or vandalism. The sounds of alarms going off was a regular occurrence, a hated urban cacophony.

In the outer boroughs, auto break-ins with sidewalks of broken glass is still a common occurrence, as I learned on Sunday, walking down Southern Boulevard near the entrance to the Bronx Zoo. I was surprised to see this on such a major thoroughfare along the zoo property. Not just one, but a chain of broken windows, like islands and islets in an urban coral atoll...


Ineke said...

great title! I sadly recognize what you say. I guess any bigger city has its share of car break ins.

Mary said...

A sad sight. Hope these days don't return to Manhattan. Don't see this much in the parts of Queens I know.

Thérèse said...


Anonymous said...

I was one of those victims. My husband thought we could save some money considering we spent alot of money on multiple tickets, so he wanted to park outside the zoo's entrance. Never will do that again. My window was smashed to bits and stole my GPS that I always hide under my seat. I lived in Brooklyn all my life and never had my car broken into till I went to the Bronx. So instead of saving $10 for parking i spent $75 for the window and lost a $150 GPS. However reading this story describes everything, because they left my radio in the car... I wonder if anything will every be done about the losers who steal from good people.