To help prevent car theft, the D.C. Police Department advises:

Resist the temptation to leave keys hidden in the interior of the car. Any self-respecting auto thief knows exactly where to look.

Do not leave the registration in the car. Not only could it aid a thief in getting away with your car, but it has your name and address, leaving your home vulnerable to burglaries.

Park your car in well-lighted areas whenever possible. Don't hide it in out-of-the-way places such as alleys or behind shrubbery.

Consider instaling an alarm system. "If it takes 10 minutes to steal a car, a thief is not going to bother," says Auto Thieft Squad Officer Ray Miley. "It's too much of a risk."

Some other reminders:

Know how much your insurance policy allows on car rental, or on taxis. Many policies have a daily limit, as well as a total maximum.

Check your policy to see how long you must wait before renting a car. There is often a 48-hour wait before insurance will reimburse transportation costs.Keep a careful record and receipts, when possible.

If you have an older-model car worth more than the book value, you will have to prove this to the insurance company. Save repair bills, receipts for parts. Take photographs (and date them) of the interior and exterior to prove the condition of the car.

If you need to have the locks changed after the car is recovered, most insurance will not pay unless they have been damaged while the car was stolen.

When using commercial parking lots, try to park where you can lock your car and take the key. If you must leave the key, check with the attendant to make sure it is company policy: Legally, they have accepted responsibility for your car.

If you must leave the key, leave only the ignition key.

Memorize your license tag number. It speeds reporting to the police and the insurance company.