IF YOU own a Škoda, Volkswagen, or Audi car you better be careful, because those are also the favourite brands of Slovak car thieves.
"In the police reports there are cases of stolen cars every day. It is not only in Bratislava. The situation is the same in other capitals of eastern Europe, mainly in Prague, Warsaw, and Budapest," Marta Bujňáková, from the press department of the Police Presidium, told The Slovak Spectator.
Last year 5,295 cars were reported stolen in Slovakia. The police arrested offenders in 1,171 cases. "Solving car thefts is extremely complicated, as there are no trails left by the stolen car at all. Very often those who could potentially give the police some information are not willing to cooperate," added Bujňáková.
However, the number of stolen cars has, on average, been falling from year to year. In 1993, when Slovakia became an independent country after the split of Czechoslovakia, the number was 9,698 and only 1,816 related arrests were made.
The majority of cars are stolen on working days off the streets of the Bratislava region, and more often during the night, although there are districts where thieves are more active during the day.
Foreigners are more likely to become victims, as they usually do not have special anti-theft devices. "Offenders are especially interested in the Škoda Octavia, Volkswagen Golf, and the Volkswagen Passat and Audis 8, 6, 4, 3, and TT. They are more likely to steal luxury cars with foreign license plates," said Bujňáková.
"Those [foreign] cars usually have only the standard safety systems provided by carmakers, while Slovaks are better at installing additional safety equipment in their cars," she added.
The police advise owners to never leave identification cards, money, weapons, or jewellery in their cars - even if they are locked inside the glove compartment. If there is a situation when owners must leave their things in their car, it is suggested that they at least cover them with a blanket and park the car in a guarded parking place.
"Some people just make their car a showcase and they wonder why someone broke the window and took what he saw. Opportunity creates thieves, especially among drug addicts," said Bujňáková.
She advises drivers to invest in a good protection system and lock their car every time they get out of it, even if only for a short moment to buy a newspaper at a nearby kiosk.
Bujňáková emphasised that if it happens that your identification and car documents are taken with your vehicle, it is almost impossible for police to detect that the car has been stolen if it is stopped on the street.
"Any thief would say he had only borrowed the car. And in several hours your car might not even exist, as offenders might take it apart or drive it across the border," she added.
Car thieves fall into two categories, Bujňáková said: occasional and professional. The first take advantage of opportunities like an unlocked or insufficiently protected car. They might just want to take the car for a joyride or to find out "how good they are at stealing".
Professional car thieves are usually a part of internationally organised networks and they are perfectly equipped with special tools and equipment.
According to the Police Presidium, leasing and insurance frauds account for a significant share of car thefts, about 20 to 30 percent. "Since the beginning of the year there have been 26 and 11 cases of cars stolen from Slovak and foreign leasing companies, respectively," added Bujňáková.
If it happens that you do not find your car where you parked it, you should immediately call the police to find out whether it was towed or if it was stolen, and inform them about the unfortunate event. This is also strongly recommended by insurance companies: "Call the police and follow the instructions of your insurer," advised Lucia Bombošová, the spokeswoman of Allianz - SP, the major insurance company in Slovakia.