First increase since 1995: stolen car crime is on the rise

Posted on September 27th, 2016 by Rob Marshall

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Despite recent media reports highlighting that many automotive keyless entry systems can be overcome easily by not very sophisticated and widely-available electriconic hardware, the Office of National Statistics has revealed that car thefts are thought to have increased for the first time this year, reversing a downward trend since the mid-1990s.

It appears that opportunistic joyriders of the Nineties have been replaced by a more organised and hardened criminal that steals the cars to either create clones, or to export outside of Europe. In March this year, for example, HPI reported that six fraudsters were arrested in Leeds, Bradford and Bournemouth in connection with the theft and cloning of 180 cars, worth £2million.

Owners of older and less valuable cars cannot be complacent, either. While Land Rover Defender thefts, for example, have been driven skywards, since the model ceased production (by 75%, according to TRACKER, earlier this year), classic and historic cars are also being targeted, due to the increasing values of either the complete cars, or their spare parts.

Vans are not safe, with the pre-2014 Ford Transit being the most commonly-stolen vehicle in the UK, with only one in three examples being recovered.

Should we be worried? While there is no need to panic, the news means that we should be extra vigilant.

What can we do?

The first thing is to follow well-established advice, which includes not parking in unlit and secluded locations and avoiding leaving anything of value either on-show, or with clues to hidden presence.

Just as dissuading a petty thief from not breaking into a vehicle, you cannot prevent a determined criminal from stealing your car entirely. All you can do is make the task harder and, therefore, reduce the risk.

This does not mean abusing your vehicle to make it appear unsightly but you might wish to invest in certain visible accessories to make the task less attractive for the opportunist. Consider that you can also check the effectiveness of the factory-fitted equipment of UK-specification cars, when they were new, at: http://www.thatcham.org/myvehicle.

Finally, keep the keys to your car away from the front door of your property, so that a thief cannot access them via a letter box, for example. However, never keep the fob in your bedroom. Should a criminal break-into your house, it is best not to tempt a risk of injury by encouraging confrontation in your sleeping area.

My next blog on the subject will provide food-for-thought, if you are looking at purchasing an aftermarket accessory to improve your car’s security.