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Car alarms are anti-social and should be banned

20 June 2014

4.06 am, that’s what it was when I was woken up. Last time this week I think it was a bit after three. And by the same bloody car alarm. The thing went off just long enough to wake me up and unsettle my seven year old.

Why? I mean, why is it my business whether your car is being stolen? At this time of the morning I just don’t care. It’s unfortunate; I do deplore car theft; but I do not see why I should be woken up way before rosy fingered Aurora gets going just because someone is trying to make off with whatever it is you’ve left on the back seat. I suppose I should be directing my ill humour at whoever it is from our local criminal class who’s out and about robbing cars, but in fact the person I really want to poke in the eye is the car owner who feels that when his property is being violated, it’s worth waking up the neighbours for. And to do justice to our local criminal youth, they do operate in daylight hours too. The last time I witnessed a car theft, right under my nose, it was on a Sunday afternoon on a nice bright day.

John Liu showed us the way to go. Ditto Eva Moskowitz. These were the district representatives in NYC who in 2002-03 tried to ban the sale, installation and use of car alarms in New York. Tragically, their bills got nowhere but they had the undoubted support of city residents. What we need is exactly the same thing here. If you want to make sure no-one tampers with your car, take all the usual precautions; lock the thing three ways, remove all the sources of temptation. But don’t wake me up. It is now 4.29 and you know what? If your car is being burgled, I. Don’t. Care.

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Show comments
  • bigmax

    Why not have car alarms which, instead of waking up people who just ignore them, call the owner’s mobile phone?

  • FrankS2

    Quite right – car alarms are a curse. Like burglar alarms on houses, they cry wolf at all times and the only response they evoke is “For F***’s sake shut up!”
    I have tried in vain to find out what responsible citizens are supposed to do when they hear an alarm go off. When I reported an alarm going late at night in a nearby shop the police said “we don’t respond to audible alarms”!
    They are completely useless, and have the sole purpose of causing annoyance.
    Get the damn things banned!

  • Flintshire Ian

    Most car alarms are set off by domestic cats on the roof or the bonnet not druggies or other bad ‘uns, especially at times in the morning when the druggies are sleeping off the substances ingested the night before.

  • Jackthesmilingblack

    Hardly ever hear those noisy car alarms here in Japan. Cars hardly ever get stolen so are not fitted with an alarm. Another advantage of living in a law-abiding country.

  • Aberrant_Apostrophe

    Given the general lack of response from the police or other residents when car alarms go off, wouldn’t it be better all round if the car alarm system just sent a text message “I am being broken into or stolen!” to the owner’s mobile? Then only they would get woken up, assuming the phone was switched on.

    • No Good Boyo

      Good idea. Although the number of false alerts would probably still make the owners ignore them.

      Still, it wouldn’t result in the entire neighbourhood being inconvenienced.

  • Smithersjones2013

    And is ‘McDonut’ volunteering to pay the inevitable hike in everybody’s car insurance as a result. No? Thought not………

    • No Good Boyo

      That’s not the way insurance works. And if you want a lower premium, move to a post code with less crime. It’s all about statistics. If you live in Peckham, your premiums are going to be higher than they would be in Great Malvern. That’s because they make more claims in Peckham than in Great Malvern.

  • an ex-tory voter

    I trust you enjoy an entirely undisturbed night tonight and do not wake tomorrow to find your car missing it’s near side window and the half dozen £1 coins it contained ready to feed municipal ticket machines and supermarket trolleys. If you are unlucky enough to have had your car targeted your neighbours will appreciate your neighbourly consideration in not having disturbed their slumbers with an irritating and pointless car alarm.
    The miscreant responsible for your broken window and absent coinage will doubtless also appreciate your thoughtfulness and will not forget it, or the street in which such thoughfulness resides.
    Maybe you can persuade all your neighbours to reciprocate your incredible thoughtfulness by removing or disabling their own car alarms. That way you can all sleep peacefully safe in the knowledge that no matter what happens outside you will not be disturbing each other and can all live happily ever after.

    • No Good Boyo

      Spare me! I have NEVER seen anybody react to a car alarm, including the owner. They are a complete waste of time and money.

      Do you have an alarm? I’ll bet you ignore it, same as every other car owner in the country. So get off your high horse, for God’s sake.

      • an ex-tory voter

        I don’t own a horse, but I do own a car with an alarm and when it or any of my neighbours car alarms go off, I check it out and they do the same.

        • No Good Boyo

          I don’t believe you.

          • an ex-tory voter

            You don’t surprise me.

        • FrankS2

          And having checked, then what?

  • Frank

    It might help if the people who carry out car thefts together with those gather the products stolen in car thefts (and presumably then bulk ship the goodies to the third world) were targeted by the police and sent to jail for long enough (and I am really turning to the American approach of increasing jail time for each offence). As it is, the last time I reported my car stereo being stolen, the police couldn’t display less interest (as they knew that any court would just give the thief a slap on the wrist, so why waste police time, etc).
    This is also very much the NYC approach, were they recognised that you have to prosecute every broken window to eventually bring a city under control. Here we just seem to be obsessed with chasing down minor traffic offenses.

    • telemachus

      Have you been to Les Miserables
      Jean Valjean was jailed for trying to help his sisters starving children at a time of economic depression
      We, as a society need to deal with the degradation of an economic underclass before resorting to the jackboot

      • No Good Boyo

        I’ve even read Les Miserables. An very apt title. Especially at the end, where Jean Valjean is dying … and dying … and still dying. Skip a couple of pages, and, Oh God! He’s still bloody dying! By this time, you’re wondering if somebody can’t — please! — just put the old git out of his misery.

        Finally, off he goes to heaven, except it’s hardly going to be paradise with Jean Valjean whining for the rest of eternity.

        • telemachus

          But what about Jailing a man because the economic depression

          • No Good Boyo

            He broke the law. He stole a loaf of bread. That you’re having a hard time is no reason why a baker should be deprived of his livelihood. Victor Hugo’s point is not that the French establishment should have excused Jean Valjean, but that France’s draconian laws of the time effectively prevented people reforming, and that a youthful indiscretion could result in blighting the life of a potentially upright citizen. The point of the bishop’s candlesticks is that the state held up the Christian way of life as the ideal, and yet, while the Christian ideal acknowledges the principle of repentance and forgiveness, the French state did not.

            BTW, you may be aware of this, but most people are not. It’s not about the French revolution.

            • telemachus

              he acclaimed French literary classic Les Misérables contains many powerful images, particularly relating to the political views of author Victor Hugo.   The political stance of the novel can be interpreted in relation to the conclusions of theorist Karl Marx, as both have a focus on the lower classes, a concern with social and economic injustice and their effects, and both believe that revolutionary change is inevitable but must come from the working class. 

              • No Good Boyo

                Revolutionary change is inevitable?

                The June Rebellion of 1832 portrayed in Les Mis is defeated! Nothing changes. Except that a load of people are killed, achieving nothing.

                Nor is it (nor was it in reality, as Victor Hugo was aware, because he was involved) fomented by the working class, but by university students. Working-class people in mid-nineteenth century France did not go to university.


    • post_x_it

      Last time my car was broken into, the policeman told me quite frankly that they know exactly who is responsible. He said that once or twice a year they catch him, arrest him, charge him, then he goes to jail for a month or two, and when he gets out the car thefts start again. Been going on for years apparently.

      • Amanda

        Appalling! How do they sleep? The judges, I mean.

    • Amanda

      the American approach of increasing jail time for each offence
      You mean England DOESN’T???!!

  • Colonel Mustard

    There is much more to this than meets the eye – or ear.

    Leaving aside the thorny issue of deterrence the idea behind alarms is somewhat anachronistic, cleaving to notions of stout vigilant bobbies on patrol in the vicinity, silent but deadly on rubber soles or two wheels, and to the community hue and cry. Both those institutions are dead, passed on, no more, ceased to be, expired, resting, if not in peace. Ms McDonagh’s reaction to the alarm is a perfect demonstration of the lack of community response and a typical reaction to the possibility that someone else’s property is being nicked. The police, in a fantastic display of dog in the manger-ism, have done their best to discourage notions of self-defence or citizen intervention by banging up those who dare offer violence to criminals whilst at the same time withdrawing from the responsibility of watch and ward within the communities they are supposed to protect. They have become in effect a far from quick reaction force but are unlikely to react at all to a car alarm, having other fish to fry – or tweets to grill. The speedometer in a car is far more likely to attract the attention of 21st Century Plod than its alarm going off at four in the morning. They don’t perambulate rattling door handles any more. Their whistles are silent in the night. If a police helicopter wakes you up its probably looking for a juvenile joy rider who has scarpered on foot rather than Charlie Peace.

    At the same time the insurance industry still bases part of its tick box pricing on the existence of an alarm. It’s like if it goes off there might be a reaction but if there isn’t one there can’t be.

    • telemachus

      See reply to Frank
      I perceive through the verbose narrative that you are on the side of Jean Valjean

      • Colonel Mustard

        No, thanks, I’ll let that “reply” pass. And I perceive from the tedious predictability of your creed that you are on the side of the thief as well as the terrorist – and ‘tagging’ again.

        • No Good Boyo

          Telemachus, like many a leftie, defines his principles not based on what he considers to be right and wrong, but on whatever he thinks Tories are against. If you wrote that the air should be free for all to breathe, he’d be railing about how the rich should have to pay for their air, and welfare claimants should be provided with subsidised air.

          • telemachus

            I was not aware I was commenting to a Tory
            I perceived no political view, no belief, no creed

            • Colonel Mustard

              You were not ‘commenting’ at all. You were tagging with a sly ad hominem and have just done it again.

              • telemachus

                Those who dish should take

                • Colonel Mustard

                  I commented here about the article, not about you. Your tag was about me. That speaks for itself and is a recurrent trend.

                • answeeney

                  telemachus is just another labour intern like many others infesting the blogs these days. We may have laws against dogs sh**ting on the pavement but, unfortunately, labour trolls are still free to leave their deposits everywhere.

    • echo34

      Have you seen how quick the plod respond when there’s something overseas to investigate, all over it like a rash.. jolly time.

  • Swiss Bob

    Do you have a burglar alarm?

  • telemachus

    The sublime to the ridiculous
    Your excellent post on Iraq yesterday was as good as this is superficial
    If you inhabit the urban zones that most reasonable folk can afford you welcome the protection of your property mobile or otherwise by any kind of alarm

    • Andy

      You are ridiculous. We all agree on that.

  • Blindsideflanker

    So instead of you getting off your lazy butt to find out whose car alarm it was that was disturbing the neighbourhood, and speaking to them, you want legislation.

    Sorry I think we have better things to legislate about.

    • Nick

      Errr perhaps you are missing the point. Surely it is an extension of the argument that car alarms are antisocial to say that she should get out of bed, and pad up and down the street in her nightie to identify the car and then wait, cat-like, till the owner comes out so that she can pounce on him. Car alarms are better than they used to be – twenty years ago they would go off if a heavy lorry drove past or – on one memorable occasion – because there was a large fly trapped inside the car – but I agree. They’re a pain and also a complete waste of time because by definition by the time they go off the damage is 90% done. And how many people come rushing out to check?

      • Alex

        I don’t think Blindsideflanker was missing the point. Car alarms might sometimes be annoying, might sometimes be ineffective. But calling for them to be banned, without any analysis of the facts, is ludicrous over-reaction.
        Sadly, the modern media consists largely of often irrational and usually self-serving demands for politicians to ‘do something’, demands the power-crazed authoritarians are only too keen to satisfy.

        • No Good Boyo

          I once lived in a not-particularly-good neighbourhood, and car alarms were going off numerous times every day. It didn’t help that they could be heard clearly at a considerable distance. After dark, the din was added to by shop alarms — at least car alarms turn themselves off having annoyed the entire neighbourhood.

          And they are a complete waste of time and money. I have NEVER seen anybody react to a car alarm — NEVER once, including the owner. They achieve nothing beyond inconveniencing the entire neighbourhood, especially at night.

          Maybe Melanie’s suggestion of banning them would be a little heavy handed, but if it were to happen, I would not be remotely outraged.

          • echo34

            So you’re saying get rid of them because you’ve never seen anyone respond to them. Sounds rational to me.. if you say so.

            • No Good Boyo

              I’m saying get rid of them because they’re a pointless pain in the butt.

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