Monday, August 14, 2017

Could Your Dealership Be on the Hook for Teen Crime?

Teen Driving Speeding Car Through Tunnel
Temple University psychology professor Laurence Steinberg compared the teenage brain to a vehicle with a good accelerator but a weak brake — a combination that is bound to lead to a crash. Steinberg meant the comparison figuratively, but a rash of juveniles stealing vehicles from dealerships made the metaphor seem like a prediction. Most of the thefts involved high-speed joyrides resulting in crashes, some of which led to fatalities.

Where Are the Crimes Happening?

In Pinellas, FL, the problem is reaching epidemic proportions. The Tampa Bay Times found that a teen crashes a stolen car every four days in the county. In 2015, police made 499 felony arrests for auto theft — that’s more than in Los Angeles. Most recently, there was a highly publicized incident in which a 14-year-old and two 16-year-olds stole an SUV from a dealership. The teens later died in a fiery crash following a police chase. A fourth teenager who was in the vehicle at the time of the crash was hospitalized.

But while Pinellas County is a hotbed for thefts, that doesn’t mean that other parts of the country are immune. Dealerships in the Chicago area, for example, have been repeatedly targeted by teens
(a problem that is made worse by dealership employees habitually leaving keys in vehicles). Young thieves have also stolen vehicles from Hemet, CA and Brooksville, FL.

Why Does a Thief’s Age Matter?

While some parents have begged for harsher penalties for juveniles who have stolen cars, that is not always the case. Some child advocates are leaning on the “immature teen brain” defense, saying that a person’s brain is not fully developed until around age 25. Before then, juveniles are likely to take more risks and are susceptible to peer pressure. It’s worth noting that in most reported cases of juvenile vehicle theft, two or more teens typically worked together, indicating that peer pressure played a role in the crimes.

According to the immature teen brain argument, juveniles shouldn’t be held fully responsible for their crimes because of their inadequate self-control and reasoning ability. In one notable case in Ontario, Canada, two teens who had been smoking marijuana and drinking stole a vehicle from a local dealership and body shop. The keys had been left in the car’s ashtray, making it an easy heist. During a joyride, the teens crashed the car, leaving the passenger with a severe brain injury.

The crash led to a trial in which the judge ruled that the dealership had a duty of care to the injured teen. The jury reasoned that the dealership should have anticipated that leaving keys in unlocked cars on the easily accessible premises might tempt minors to go joyriding in the vehicles and injure themselves — especially considering that there was evidence of theft in the area. In the end, the jury assigned 37 percent liability for the teen’s injuries to the business and 10 percent to the teen himself.

How Should You Protect Your Dealership?

In its annual report on vehicle theft, the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) said that “technology is working [to reduce theft], but complacency can defeat it.”

You might have cars with advanced security features or a security system at your dealership, but these precautions are all but useless when you make simple mistakes like leaving keys in unlocked vehicles. You can’t afford not to implement proper physical security measures, which includes securing keys. In addition, make sure you have an audit trail of key usage to demonstrate that you’ve taken reasonable efforts to exercise duty of care in protecting your inventory and community.

If the trend of juvenile thefts continues, we could see more dealerships being held liable for a stolen vehicle involved in a fatal crash or used to commit crimes. Don’t let poor security put the brakes on your business.

Monday, August 7, 2017

The Multifamily Package Problem Is About To Get Worse

Today, 51 percent of Americans prefer to shop online. While e-commerce is helping consumers save time and money, it’s having the opposite effect for multifamily communities. The more packages leasing offices have to manage, the more they struggle with issues such as lost productivity and liability for lost or stolen packages. According to the National Apartment Association, this problem could get worse for some complexes, due to a new offer from Amazon.
stack of packages
In June, Amazon announced that customers receiving government assistance would be able to sign up for a discounted Prime membership. The subscription service includes unlimited free two-day shipping on more than 50 million items and a 20 percent discount on diapers and wipes. Customers can qualify every 12 months up to four times, so apartments with low-income tenants should prepare for a flood of Prime deliveries over the next several years.

Some communities may choose to stop accepting packages — a decision that won’t sit well with tenants. Others are implementing package tracking software that streamlines the package drop-off process and automatically notifies tenants when a package has been delivered. Not only can properties advertise this capability as an amenity, but  they can reduce liability by cutting down on lost or stolen packages.

To read more about how the increase in online shopping is affecting multifamily complexes, read this post. How will your property respond?

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Chicago Dealers Driving up Crime: What All Dealers Need to Know

Car key in ignition
Losing thousands of dollars in inventory is reason enough to do everything in your power to prevent auto theft, but what if your stolen vehicles end up endangering the community?

Police in Chicago are seeing an alarming number of vehicles being stolen from dealerships and rental agencies. Many of the vehicles are then used for illegal activities, including robberies and homicides. The rash of thefts is attributed to dealers leaving keys in vehicles on their lots — so frequently, in fact, that two ward aldermen are proposing an ordinance requiring dealerships to secure keys outside of business hours.

The situation in Chicago is a sobering reminder of why locking up your keys to protect your inventory is critical. Here are three reasons why.

Reckless Driving Endangers Communities

Reckless driving and severe crashes are just two of the ways stolen vehicles can threaten public safety. One recent incident in Libertyville, IL is a prime example. Late one Sunday night, thieves stole five vehicles from a local dealership and were spotted speeding and driving erratically without their lights on. One of the thieves led police on a high-speed chase that reached 115 mph before the stolen vehicle crashed into another car.

You Could Be Liable for Crimes Committed in Your Vehicles

Negligent key control could leave you liable for crimes committed in your stolen vehicles. Fresno My Auto Maxx was sued for negligence after employees repeatedly left keys in vehicles, allowing criminals to easily drive vehicles off the lot. After one of the stolen vehicles was involved in the death of a 55-year-old man, the dealership paid a $950,000 settlement to the victim’s widow. If you’re storing keys in a negligent manner, you’re leaving your dealership vulnerable to this type of lawsuit. Take steps to control your keys before you’re taken to court.

Losses Can’t Always Be Recouped

If your vehicles are stolen and/or damaged, you could be forced to take a loss on the value of the vehicle(s). It’s easy to say, “That’s why I have insurance,” but the truth is, having insurance doesn’t guarantee you’ll recoup all your losses. After paying your insurance deductible and, in some cases, coinsurance penalties, a theft could end up costing you thousands of dollars.

Even if your insurance policy were to reimburse you for 100 percent of damages, some inventory can be difficult, if not impossible, to replace. At one dealership in Missouri, two stolen cars that were totaled by reckless driving were among some of the rarest on the lot and would take months to replace. Time spent on filing claims and fees paid for lawsuits brought against you will negatively impact your bottom line as well.

Simply securing your keys protects not only your inventory but your community. How do you secure your dealership’s keys? Let us know in the comments.