How to make your car secure

Minor car crime is falling in the UK, according to official statistics.
Car Thief
But it hasn’t gone away. And organised theft is a growing problem, with criminal gangs stealing top-of-the-range cars (often to order) and shipping them out of the country before they can be found. There’s even talk of lead-lined containers being used to thwart satellite tracking devices. Hundreds of luxury vehicles have been taken in London alone, many by thieves using a handheld device that bypasses keyless ignition and other security systems. And we’ve also seen reports of gangs attaching tracking devices to vehicles in airport car parks before stealing them from outside owners’ homes. Last year, a huge cache of high-end cars such as Audis and BMWs, with a collective value of £1.2 million, was found hidden in containers at ports across the UK. Whatever type of car you drive, it therefore makes sense to take steps to keep it safe and secure.

How car crime has changed

Car crime in the UK reached a peak in the early 1990s when around 700,000 vehicles were stolen each year. According to the AA, this total had fallen to around 75,000 by 2013. But some types of car, including luxury models and classic cars, are even more likely to be stolen now than they were 20 years ago. While opportunistic thieves and joyriders committed most 1990s car crime, the huge majority nowadays is down to organised gangs who steal specified models and often ship the cars overseas.

How security devices can help

If you drive a modern car, it probably has an alarm and an immobiliser fitted as standard.
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Windows made of security glass or Enhanced Protection Glazing (EPG), designed to prevent “smash and grab” attacks, are also now being fitted on more cars. Some models are fitted with automatically locking doors designed to prevent car-jackings. However, if your car does not have an alarm or an immobiliser, or if you want up upgrade from the factory-fitted kit, you can easily have one fitted. Just remember to check it is Thatcham approved, as this should ensure it is an effective deterrent – and may well help you get a discount on your car insurance too. Other devices you can buy to further secure your car include steering wheel locks. This is a low-tech defence compared to more modern security solutions, but such locks are nevertheless being recommended as a way to foil criminals targeting keyless ignition vehicles. A tracking device remains a good idea, lead-lined containers notwithstanding.

Why common sense is key

The easiest way for a criminal to steal your car is by getting hold of the keys. And the most common way for thieves to do this is by snatching the keys from your home. That’s why it’s sensible to leave keys out of the sight of prying eyes. And definitely not by the front door! To keep your car safer at home, it’s also a good idea to park it off-road or in a locked garage if possible. Not only does this make it harder for criminals to steal, it can also get your money off your car insurance in the same way as having an alarm fitted. Away from home, meanwhile, park on well-lit, busy streets or in secure car parks, and make sure potentially high-value items such as mobile phones, handbags and sat navs are hidden away. Finally, ensure that you lock the doors and close the windows every time you leave the car – even if you are at a petrol station or just popping away for a minute.

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