Reducing theft from cars

Q-Park recognises that municipalities want to promote their cities as safe and attractive places to visit with low crime figures. Low theft from parked cars enhances the city’s reputation and contributes to the enjoyment of the visit. Reducing theft from cars is important because this is number 3 on the list of top 10 concerns about criminality.

Amsterdam wanted to tackle car-related theft and invited Q-Park to contribute to the project it had initiated with the municipal police. Q-Park agreed to participate because it wants to play a responsible role in society. Q-Park also wants to enhance the quality experience for parking customers.

However, drawing attention to theft from cars is not necessarily in the best interest of the parking provider or the municipality. Prevention is better than cure – the more a municipality, in conjunction with local police and car parking providers, can do to minimise crime and theft from cars in particular, the better.

In a public-private partnership (PPP), with the Municipality of Amsterdam, the Amsterdam Police Department and behavioural psychology experts, Q-Park developed a ‘Prevent Smash & Grab’ campaign. This uses careful messaging to influence people’s behaviour for the long term and is not intended to stigmatise particular areas of a city.

The campaign is based on a brightly-coloured logo and striking visuals. These are incorporated in posters and stickers. The visuals draw attention to the security issues of leaving personal property in cars. They provide a consistent message and the visual identity reinforces this both inside and out. The campaign is ready to roll-out in any city.

Three seconds to make a difference

The behavioural psychology experts recommended the logo be placed on walls and pillars at eye height so that people are reminded to take their valuables with them as they get out of their car. Within the crucial three seconds before they think ahead to the reason that they are parked.

Drawing on the joint experience and resources of the municipality, the local Police Department and Q‑Park, the campaign addresses the problem of theft from cars with a combination of public space management, innovative policing tactics, and a unique communication campaign. The campaign materials are designed to be placed in and around car parks, on-street parking areas and at tourist places.

The campaign's four key messages

  • A huge range of items attracts car burglars, even items that you might not consider valuable.
  • Items hidden from sight in the car, does not mean they are safe and unreachable.
  • Car break-ins happen faster than people can imagine, even in car parks considered ‘safe’.
  • It is easy to prevent a car break-in: do not leave valuables in your car!

Logo on pillars throughout car park

Logo in paving in and around car park

Flexible and effective campaign

The key is to encourage people to change their behaviour in the long-term. The campaign is flexible and delivers the message to motorists at the right time and place and makes prudent use of cognitive moments1.

Purpose of the campaign’s visual elements

Proven success

In the pilot campaign held in the Amsterdam museum district, theft from cars dropped by 25% in the first six months. The campaign has been implemented throughout the municipality of Amsterdam and is being tested in other major Dutch cities (Rotterdam, Utrecht, Eindhoven).

Because of its success, it has now been transferred to the Dutch National Centre for Crime Prevention & Public Safety, the intention being to make this a national campaign.

At the time of writing nine municipalities are implementing the scheme.

EPA Award Winner 2017

Category 5 - Marketing & Communication

  1. Cognitive moments are the specific ‘time and place’ that the message grabs the target group’s attention, relaying the message in the most effective way.