How to Catch Someone Vandalizing Your Car (5 Methods)

The threat of vandalism comes in so many packages. But the gist is that in 2022, people reported over 7 million property crimes in the United States. Think about the ones that did not get noticed or were misidentified. The statistic includes vandalism, burglary, theft, and arson.

Types of Vandalism to a Vehicle:

  • Breaking any windows or mirrors
  • Painting, including graffiti
  • Egging
  • Scratching, including keying
  • Damaging car tires

If you walk out of your home, store, or anywhere and notice your car vandalized, there are specific steps you need to take — as soon as possible.

The police report of malicious mischief — or vandalism — is great to have, but what is better is a face to put with the crime when giving the details to a law enforcement officer.

But, before all of that, prevention is the first measure to take.

1. What do you do when someone has vandalized your car?

Car Body Repair.

It is easy to follow a checklist of “to-do’s,” but not every vandalism case is the same. The first step — contact your local police department or sheriff’s office.

What’s next? Let’s begin with the basics.

Window Worries

A smashed window could mean a few things. But, what many people do not realize is that busted windows might be a warning sign for a more severe misdeed.

Many car burglaries start with trying to gain access through a window. Front, back, or side does not make a difference to someone wanting to rob a car.

Make a list of any missing items when calling the authorities. Thieves will take everything in the glove compartment. Stolen car titles, for example, need to be reported to the DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles).

Even more serious, bank documents end up in the wrong hands. Reporting the theft protects you from fraud, and they will set up alerts and freeze the at-risk accounts.

2. Various Other Types of Vehicle Vandalism

Burned Car On The Street

Yes, car burglaries happen and are traumatic because of the invasion of space. But, it is only one type of vandalism.

  1. Spray paint is accessible and quick when looking to do damage. But you will deal with the aftermath of repair, replacement, and repainting.
  2. Kids think that egging a vehicle is a practical joke. But there is nothing practical about it. Egg yolks are acidic and eat away paint, and the shell scratches the car’s surface.
  3. Keying a car is one of the most personal acts of vandalism. It is usually someone you know. And sometimes, it goes unnoticed for a while. The defacement causes grave surface damage. (Both to the victim and vehicle)
  4. Slashing or damaging tires is nefarious. It costs money to replace them and can go unnoticed and cause serious injury to the car’s driver. It happens quickly and is hard to catch in the act.

Reporting Wrong-Doing

Fireman And Burning Vehicle

The act of vandalism comes in two varieties — random and personal.

The random variety happens without rhyme or reason, and sometimes it is a neighborhood-wide occurrence. Reporting all incidents of vandalism to local authorities will improve overall crime prevention.

Do not leave out any detail, whether it feels important or not. Tell the police about any suspicious activity and all damage. Minor details lead to finding a perpetrator.

The insurance companies involved rely on the recollection of events by you and a police report to hold up their end. Documentation is vital for recovering the cost of the damage and catching the perpetrator.

Have ready:

  • Identification or driver’s license
  • Vehicle registration
  • Vehicle and homeowner or renter insurance policies
  • Any pictures of the vehicle damage
  • Surveillance footage, whether or not it caught the act of vandalism
  • A list of missing property

3. How do I protect my car from vandalism?

Thief In Black Balaclava

Like with any crime, sometimes they are entirely unavoidable. But there are courses of action to limit the chances of it happening to you.

Clean Chaos and Clutter

Criminals take in every detail when deciding to commit a crime. An odd fact is that the more stuff spotted inside a car, the higher the chances of someone picking that car to burglarize.

  • Tip: Take important items out of the car, or place them out of sight.

Always Lock Up

Unlocked vehicles are like giving candy to babies for criminals. Did you know that 99% of car burglaries start with an unlocked car?

Whether at home or in a secured parking lot, there is no safe place to leave a car unlocked.

Eyes on the Prize

Parking lots and garages typically have security cameras these days. It is the best policy to look around and see if you can spot the eyes in the sky.

Most vehicles come with a car alarm system. It does not mean added security is not necessary. Upgrading existing precautions is an option; even adding a decal helps.

Want to go one better than that? If someone gets up the nerve to still break into your vehicle or do damage, dash cams are a definite option. Recording a thief in action makes it much easier for the police to catch them.

4. Can you prove someone keyed your car?

Car Thief Looking Through Car Window

The reasons people key a car range from vengeance to merely acting maliciously. Either way, it tends to happen in the dark of night, making it much harder to know who did the deed and when the car marring happened.

The two ways to know who committed the crime are — eyewitnesses and dashcams.

Suspecting a person is not enough when the police show up to take the report. Sure, issues with a neighbor or an angry ex might make the offender obvious, but assumptions are barely a lead, much less enough to recover damages.

The truth is that even an eyewitness, whether you or a neighbor, is not always enough to get justice when dealing with vandalism. No CSI team will come to lift prints because so-and-so was near a vandalized car.

What does work is a spy camera with night vision because it cannot hold a bias against someone or speculate. The clearer the picture, the better for you, the insurance company, and the police when trying to catch the bad guy in the bad act, even if it is after the fact.

5. Does car insurance cover vandalism?

The quick answer is yes, yes, it does. But, there is a “but” to the statement. The car insurance policy needs to say comprehensive insurance. The comprehensive part covers collision, fire, hail, flooding, and theft.

The added protection against vandalism makes it worth it in the long run. But, there is another “but.” Vehicle insurance only covers the damage; it does not pay for anything stolen from the car.

  • Example — Someone smashes out a side window of your truck and steals your laptop off the seat. The computer is not part of the coverage.

It is why, in the case of a vandalism situation, presenting the police with a vehicle and home or rental insurance is the best plan. Renter and homeowner policies typically cover items stolen out of cars.

We’ve established that vandalism is not a victimless crime. It costs money and strips people of the feeling of safety. A car surveillance camera is the only surefire to protect against malicious acts against the property.

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About John Fox

ebbb364ee14268bd3b77496cab3d1d78?s=90&d=mm&r=gCertifications: Certified Alarm Technician (CAT)
Education: Denver Security Academy
Lives In: Denver Colorado

John Fox has worked as a security consultant in Denver for over 20 years.
With Safe Now, he's taken those two decades of experience and decided to share it to help people online make the right security decisions for their businesses and families.

John writes security tips and guides, product recommendations, and prevention guides.

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