Modern Car Crime and How to Combat it
In the late ‘90s, as locks, immobilisers and in car electronics advanced, car theft declined significantly and, as cars became more sophisticated, you needed the keys to take most modern vehicles. Home invasion type break-ins were the only way to be able to steal high priced, high-performance cars, but things are changing.
New technology aimed at driver convenience has unintentionally given car thieves a new way in. Having your car unlock for you as you walk up to it is helpful, but the electronic signatures transmitted from your keys to your car can be copied and used to confuse the vehicle.
Technology is part of the problem
To steal a car these days, thieves just have to wander around the outside of your house until they pick up the signal from your key, they then transmit this at a much more powerful rate which your car picks up and unlocks. A second criminal is already standing next to your car when this happens, he/she jumps in and starts it, they can then drive off leaving you to find an empty driveway when you wake up in the morning.
If you are concerned about the security of your keyless entry system, in many instances it can be turned off. Doing this would mean that you’d have to operate the key fob buttons instead.
Another criminal trick is to use a signal jammer to stop your key from locking your car when you leave it, whether that’s via keyless or when you manually press the button. This way a thief can pilfer your belongings from inside, or have your car collected and whisked away without a trace – from there it could either be dismantled for parts or possibly shipped abroad for resale.
Our advice to motorists is to make sure that the car locks as you leave it, press the lock function, listen out for the lock engagement, observe your lights flash, horn beep etc.
Opportunists still take advantage
Criminals always like to seize opportunities when they arise, they may not even be seasoned car thieves, but if a car’s left running and unlocked you may as well put a large sign up saying ‘STEAL ME’.
One of the easiest ways for a criminal to get your car is to just wander the streets on a frosty morning, the amount of people that leave the keys in their car while it’s running for it to warm up and defrost is staggering.
The same goes for when you’re loading or unloading your shopping. Make sure you’re vigilant and keep your keys on you at all times.
Keep your car keys somewhere safe
As well as keeping an eye on your keys while out and about you need to look after them at home too. Please don’t put them on a hook near the front door; it’s long been known that thieves like to use coat hangers and long metal hooks with magnets on to grab them and fish them back out through the letterbox.
You should also make sure that any keyless car keys are kept in a signal blocking pouch when indoors. This will stop would be criminals from signal boosting, and making off with your pride and joy. A drawer located as far as possible from entrances is also a good hiding place, leaving them lying around on tables in sight of windows is also a big no-no.
Deter criminals from the start
There are a few things you can do to make your car less attractive to the criminal fraternity. Firstly, make sure all valuables are out of sight, that means phones, tablets, laptops, mp3 players, wallets, even envelopes. The inside of your car should be as bare as the day you purchased it, even coats or clothing could be tempting to thieves. Taking a few minutes to hide things in the glovebox or boot is far more preferable to the hassle of repairing a smashed window.
If you’ve got a particularly expensive or desirable car use a steering wheel lock, these devices clamp around your wheel and feature a long bar so the wheel can’t be turned. Made of solid metal they will deter an opportunist car thief.
Think about where you’re parking, a dimly lit multi-storey is a prime place for smash and grab break-ins to happen. Instead, use well lit, or security patrolled parking areas. If you’re leaving your car on the road at night, park near or under a light so nobody can lurk in the shadows.
Make sure you don’t park in dark, lonely streets, being publicly visible is often a great way to deter any sort of crime. There’s also a list of car parks registered with the Park Mark Safer Parking Scheme run by the BPA; you can search for accredited car parks on their website.
Use technology to your advantage
While it’s true that thieves have found their way around some manufacturer implemented technology, there are still ways to protect your car.
A primary deterrent is to install a tracker. It might not stop the car being stolen in the first place but it will make a big difference to how quickly it is recovered. Due to the cost of the vehicles, many high end and performance cars have trackers fitted as standard. Some systems will tie in directly with the Police so they can actively track a stolen vehicle, others rely on GPS and can give an exact location, these systems usually come with a subscription, but this can be as little as £50 for a year.
You don’t want to be a statistic like one of the 280,313 people that had items stolen from their car, or the 103,644 motorists who had their car stolen in 2017. So, think before you park, make your vehicle as uninteresting as possible to car thieves and protect your keys too.
But don’t lose sleep at night, you are unlikely to be targeted by professional cyber-crime car thieves. At CLM, we don’t have to spend much time on stolen vehicles, it’s the much more mundane things like speeding fines, accidents and break downs that keep our team busy.