NEWS

Shrill alarms deter sleep instead of car thieves

No one living in densely inhabited areas can have been spared the unpleasant experience of being rudely awoken from sleep at some unearthly hour by the shrilling of a car alarm. And how many Sunday siestas have been disturbed by the nerve-shattering noise, how many cinema outings ruined, and how many headaches have been caused – especially when the owner of the offending vehicle is sleeping the sleep of the just a number of blocks away? Ever since car alarm systems became so sensitive that they could even be activated by high winds, the city has acquired an almost permanent acoustic accompaniment. But at least they deter aspiring thieves – or do they? The Greek police force has no statistics on whether car alarms provide a safeguard for our private vehicles. The fact is, however, that despite their widespread use (car alarms are often installed in the factory or immediately after purchase), vehicle thefts have failed to show any decrease. Quite the contrary: From 1991 to 2002, car thefts have risen 113 percent. According to Attica police data, a total of 17,801 cars throughout the country were stolen in 2002 (an average of 49 cars a day), while in the first six months of 2003 (data are not available for the rest of the year), there were 9,161 thefts (an average of 50 per day). An Attica security officer told Kathimerini that «some car alarms start ringing just because another car passes by. Nobody pays any attention to them anymore. Why, then, should the thieves?» The same thoughts occurred to New York’s municipal counselors, who were mulling over measures to restrict or forbid the use of alarms in cars. Yet the noise they emit is the public’s No. 1 complaint. It has been calculated that in this American city, 95-99 percent of car alarms go off without reason. Seventy-six percent of New York residents say that car alarms have woken them from sleep, 50 percent that they lower their productivity and 91 percent that they affect their quality of life. Medical research has in fact shown that the noise caused by car alarms can lead to psychological disturbance, cardiovascular and other disorders, while children exposed to this kind of noise show greater difficulty in learning how to read and poorer performance at school. That’s why those in favor of silencing car alarms propose that car owners use alternative methods, such as brake locks, immobilizers and even car alarms that only notify the interested party – and not the whole neighborhood.