In a broad, sociological sense, thieves aren’t generally considered the worst villains among the criminal class. Robin Hood, Danny Ocean, and Charlie Croker are all portrayed as brilliant heroes, cooler than a Daniel Craig staredown and slick as an E-Type.
But then we get robbed. Someone makes off with our beloved cars, expensive car parts, or other, automatically less consequential, things, and we begin to realize that thieves are actually thoughtless, terrible children whose sole hobby is to spike our violent tendencies. I first encountered this a few years ago when some used needle kicked in our door and stole my roommate’s XBox (of all things). Then, on Saturday night last week, someone hacked the catalytic converter out from under his truck. It always sucks to work hard for something only to encounter someone who isn’t working hard and takes it from you.
But the worst is when they take something of far greater sentimental value than monetary value. On Wednesday night, someone stole Jalopnik writer Jason Torchinsky’s beloved ’73 VW Beetle. He’d owned it for about 20 years, drove it regularly, patched it up with pennies and love, and some degenerate coward lifted it from in front of his house for the few hundred bucks he’d get for chopping it.
No, I don’t have any sympathy for thieves. Therefore I’ve come up with a few nonlethal theft deterrents that don’t just deter an individual theft, but a whole career path.
Live Wire Catalytic Converter
Since the theft of this particular exhaust element birthed our ideas, I’ll start here. Depending on the vehicle, cats are notoriously easy to steal, and since they’re made with platinum, they offer big payoffs. A couple of quick slices with a sawzall or a low-clearance pipe cutter, and you’ve just scored a pair of Benjamins.
I suggest running a great deal of electric current through the inside of the exhaust system, fixing heat-insulated wires to the inner walls of the pipes surrounding the cat. Power tools would be ruined, and pipe cutters would immediately turn into conduits.
Minor Setbacks: Improperly installed wires could probably burn down the car, though it should be noted that this would also prevent theft. Current could be lethal to subjects with heart disease or pacemakers. Live wires would be easy to identify and disarm.
In-car Sticky Foam
Developed in the 1990s by the US military for riot control, sticky foam is exactly what it sounds like. It sprays out of a pressurized tank, piling up on the subject and hardening immediately, incapacitating him. It never gained any widespread use, since, if fired at the nose and mouth, it will almost certainly suffocate the subject.
I propose putting a couple of small stickyfoam tanks just behind the dash. The thief climbs in, hotwires the car, puts it in gear, and is immediately glued to the seat in a dense lather of thick, goopy justice. The best part: he’ll still be in your car, waiting for the police, when you go out there in the morning.
Minor Setbacks: Improperly aimed nozzles could impair the poor chap’s breathing, which might have an adverse effect on his survival. Interior parts coming into contact with sticky foam will likely need to be replaced. You’ll be unable to drive your car for several hours while furious policemen work to extract the criminal from your befoamed car.
If you’ve ever undergone surgery, you might vaguely remember that clear rubber mask as the last thing you saw before everything went black. Modern anesthesia can be extremely potent. So why not develop an invisible, odorless sleeping agent to be deployed into the cabin whenever unlawful entry is detected?
The crackhead smashes the window and immediately the cabin is filled with a mix of rich, powerful isoflurane and nitrous oxide, which you might have in your car already. He hops in, and as he’s fumbling with the hammer and screwdriver, he suddenly feels very heavy. A slight discomfort momentarily alerts him to the presence of the handbrake sticking into his ribs. He wakes up happily in handcuffs ten hours later.
Minor Setbacks: Could malfunction and fire on drivers while they’re driving. Thieves could employ breathing apparatus to keep from inhaling the gas, or simply hold their breath until they can get the rest of the windows down. Every garage would have to employ a very expensive anesthesiologist. Decreased effectiveness in top-down convertibles, t-tops, and targas.
Wheel theft has become a big problem lately. Locks prove ineffective, as the average wheel thief likely carries an exhaustive array of adaptors. And since wheels are just bolted on, getting them off is virtually silent.
So I thought I’d encourage them to come off very quickly. Enter the auto-launching wheel. Behind the center of the wheel is an electrically-detonated explosive, small enough to keep fingers intact, but large enough to launch the wheel off the hub and directly into the robber’s chest. Even if he gets out of the way in time, the runaway wheel is sure to induce a Benny Hill-themed wheel-chase around the neighborhood. Charges could be disarmed with a button in the cabin.
Minor Setbacks: Extant lug wrenches could easily turn into spearheads. Explosion could damage insignificant components such as brakes, hubs, bearings, etc.
Blank-firing Car Alarm
Let’s face it: nobody notices car alarms anymore. No matter how many different noises they stack up, like one of those awesome laser guns we all used to play with, we universally register car alarms as annoying malfunctions. A leaf brushed up against your fender on the way to the ground, and it’s suddenly a symphony of irritation.
But what about gunfire? A .44 magnum discharging across your front lawn would be sure to draw the eyes of the whole neighborhood. Set up a magazine and a pin/receiver system somewhere safe, away from fuel lines, and wire it to the alarm. Any caliber would work. You could even install two or more to simulate gang warfare. Add full-auto for a greater volume of 911 calls.
Best of all? The would-be thief would likely soil himself hit the deck until the firing stopped, giving you plenty of time to arrest him yourself.
Minor setbacks: Blanks could be tough to find pretty soon. This device would be almost universally banned among home owners’ associations. Armed thieves might attempt to return fire.
Of course, I’m not serious. Mostly. But I do encourage people to come up with clever ways to keep their cars and car parts from being stolen by jobless hacks who don’t fell like getting up in the morning. What smart solutions have you seen?
If you see Jason’s Beetle, which was stolen in SoCal, let him know as soon as possible.