Car theft has always been a worry for motorists, but today’s drivers need to be extra vigilant, as car thieves can now steal vehicles more quickly than ever before. New findings show that car crooks have got a whole lot more savvy in recent years, and can now nick a motor in just 10 seconds flat – that’s a whopping six times faster than a decade ago. Crucially, as modern vehicles are proving more difficult to break into unaided, thieves are increasingly stealing car keys directly from driver’s homes. Much more dignified than forcing the ignition by smashing into the car and hotwiring the ignition! This, in turn, has dramatically reduced the time it takes the average car thief to commit the crime and make his getaway. The research is part of a recent study by criminologists for insurer LV=, which found that car thefts involving the criminal stealing the key now account for nearly two thirds of all cars stolen each year. In many cases, thieves take the car keys from the owner’s house during a burglary. These cases often go unreported, as they are classed as “burglary” rather than car theft. However, in some cases, victims have their keys taken forcibly from them before the thief makes off in their car, or the thief will “fish” for keys left on a hall table through the letterbox. The message here is simple: as a motorist, it’s vital to remain on your guard at all times.
Car thieves get cleverAs the security features on cars, such as alarms and locks, have improved, so too have the techniques used by criminals to steal those cars. Thieves have become more inventive – and their methods more creative. While this has led to a greater emphasis on stealing the keys, rather than forcing the ignition, there has also been a rise in cases of “lifting”. This is where a vehicle is simply lifted onto the back of a truck and driven away. In some cases cited in the study, crooks say they have brazenly lifted cars onto a truck in broad daylight, by wearing convincing attire and acting confidently. Once again, as a motorist you can never take too much care when it comes to looking after your prized set of wheels.
Which cars get stolen the most – and the least?In recent years, there’s been a growing trend of “stealing to order”, with car thieves deliberately picking out high-end makes and models – and selecting popular colours. According to findings, crooks have their eyes firmly set on black Audis, which are currently the most popular model to steal, while black and silver BMWs follow closely. At the other end of the scale, the least sought after cars are yellow Smart cars. In addition, the study also found that as well as focusing on particular makes and colours, car criminals will also target certain features, such as alloy wheels, CD players, metallic paint and integrated Sat Navs. Generally speaking, cars that are stolen to order are never recovered. Some are shipped, in particular to Africa, in lead-lined containers that prevent tracker signals from working. In many cases, a car may be stripped down into its spare parts, as it can be worth a lot more this way. Criminals can also avoid detection far more by selling parts rather than the car itself, as private buyers will now often check the history of a car before purchase.
Tips to make your car more secureWhile this may make for worrying reading, the good news is, there are plenty of simple steps you can take to improve your vehicle’s security – and reduce the risk of it being stolen:
- Try and park your car on a busy well-lit street, rather than in a dark, quiet, secluded car park.
- Keep your car locked in a garage at night – or at least parked on a driveway – and make sure any valuables are out of sight.
- Take care never to leave spare keys in your car – and make sure they are stored safely out of sight in the home.
- If you haven’t already, consider installing an approved alarm and an immobiliser device, such as a Thatcham 1or Thatcham 2.