17 juin 20

Vehicle theft in Latin America, and ways to fight back

Keeping your vehicle fleet safe in Latin America could mean improving driving culture to minimize accidents, knowing how to deal with hazardous road conditions in the region, and the latest need to maintain sanitation amid the Novel Coronavirus today.  

These are all important but what we are going to talk about below is passenger vehicle theft and carjacking in the region and how to deal with it.

Among the countries facing the most problems with theft in recent years are Brazil, Mexico, Argentina and Venezuela. However, to give you an idea of the situation, we will give you a brief snapshot of those with the highest number of incidents, being Brazil and Mexico.

Brazil tops the number of cases with some 450,000 vehicles reported as being stolen per year (214 per 100,000 inhabitants). Approximately half of them are carjacking which is frequently done at gunpoint so make sure your drivers are prepared to deal with this if the situation arises.

Basically, they should remain calm and cooperate with the assailant. Fleet Managers, advise your drivers on the specifics set out by your company.

Among the most stolen vehicles in Brazil are highly popular compact hatchbacks such as the Hyundai HB20 and GM Chevrolet Onix, but also mid-priced vehicles such as the Honda HRV crossover and Ford Ranger pickup.

In Mexico, some 86,000 vehicles were reported as stolen in 2019 (68 per 100,000 inhabitants), actually down 9% year-over-year. Approximately 60% involved carjacking.

Mexico vehicle theft and recovery report (source: MexInsurance.com) 

Among the most stolen are models from the best-selling brand in the country, being Nissan with its NP300 pickup and the Tsuru, and Versa sedans. Those attracted by carjackers are the Kia Sportage and Mazda CX5 crossovers, and other mid-priced vehicles.

Finally, keep in mind that theft has increased on some company premises in recent months as quarantine periods stemming from the health crisis has left many vehicles unattended. Unfortunately, there are thieves taking advantage of the crisis and you must be prepared for this. 

Fighting back

As for protecting your unattended fleet, first try to reallocate your vehicles for other usages as an idled fleet is an inefficient fleet.

If you still find yourself with unattended vehicles, use small covert wireless devices with movement and tamper alarms in parking facilities, install GPS security devices that detect and track unauthorized movement, including those fitted to assets with theft recovery trackers. 

Other ways to upfit the vehicles themselves are to install car alarms, ignition disablers, hidden kill switches, or maybe even carrying out VIN etching or utilizing steering wheel or brake pedal locks. Moreover, being street smart and always being conscious of your surroundings is key when driving and parking your vehicles.

Even with these defensive measures, thefts may still occur within your fleet and your main objective will be to recover your vehicle as quickly and efficiently as possible to put it back to use.

Although having a robust insurance policy certainly eases some of the stress in this situation, it could be quite costly for large fleets so always negotiate premiums.

One alternative becoming more popular by fleet managers these days is the use of innovative technologies such as telematics.  Although it helps improve efficiency by reducing operational costs, telematics is becoming more popular in Latin America as a way to mitigate the risk of theft.

Seek providers that can not only provide you with vehicle theft prevention tools but also products aimed at tracking and recovering your vehicle as quickly as possible once it is stolen. 

Among the companies providing these types of services in Latin America are Galooli, Geotab, Golsat, Ituran, LoJack, MiX Telematics, Pointer, Teletrac Navman, Octo Telematics, and Webfleet Solutions. 

Authored by: Daniel Bland