POLICE have renewed warnings to drivers to take the necessary precautions to protect their cars as the number of keyless vehicle thefts continues to increase.
Criminals are increasingly using “relay” technology to transmit signals from key fobs inside houses to receivers near the cars, allowing the vehicles to be unlocked, started and driven away.
New figures from the National Police Chiefs’ Council show that vehicle crime between May and June of this year increased by 3.1%, with police confirming that the bulk of this increase is from keyless theft.
The monthly increase is against a backdrop of falling vehicle thefts: from January to December 2020, there was a 21% decrease in the crimes, compared with the previous year, according to the latest Office for National Statistics figures.
Simple steps to protect cars from theft
Assistant Chief Constable Jenny Sims, National Police Chiefs’ Council lead for vehicle crime, said: “Car theft is a serious crime that causes significant distress and upset to owners, and police are putting considerable resources into tackling it and bringing those responsible to justice.
“While the rapid development of technology has dramatically improved the experience of drivers it has also allowed criminals to exploit weaknesses in electronic security.”
She urged drivers to take simple steps to keep their vehicle safe: “Storing your keys in metal tins or protective pouches that block the devices criminals are using. A return to basics like making sure your car is locked is worthwhile too. We know from research that some owners think that cars automatically lock – they don’t. Always double check before you walk away that it’s locked.”
Increasingly, these thefts are becoming the work of highly organised gangs but police forces are having some success in fighting them.
Leicestershire Police recently secured the conviction of a seven-member organised crime gang that was linked to the theft of more than 50 keyless vehicles totalling £2.4 million, resulting in a sentence of more than 30 years.
Last year Driving.co.uk reported how insurance premiums could rise by as much as £626 after a car theft. “Things like the loss of your no claims bonus and the fact that you’ve had a theft claim can raise the cost,” said Lee Griffin, CEO of GoCompare. “Unfortunately, the way insurance works is that they consider cases of theft in the calculation.”
New technology to combat keyless car theft
Sims said the police are working closely with car makers to develop new technologies that can combat keyless car thefts, by sharing intelligence and equipment seized from criminals. She added that “significant progress” has been made in this regard.
Car manufacturers are making vehicles less prone to theft through ever-complex security features. Ford has introduced a key that goes into a sleep mode when it has been stationary for 40 seconds, which make relay theft from homes impossible. Meanwhile BMW has introduced digital car keys that drivers can store on a smartphone.
There are several things that car owners can do to prevent the risk of having their vehicle stolen without its key. You can learn more about six different types of keyless car theft and how to prevent it here.
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