With technological advances on the rise and new ways of stealing vehicles emerging, keeping your car secure and safe from car theft is now more important than ever.
News headlines show that car crime is on the rise, with the newest trend amongst criminals being ‘relay’ car theft. This particular type of vehicle theft is where two criminals work together with a device called a relay box to gain entry to, and steal, a vehicle.
The above photo shows images from West Midlands Police Department and shows the first relay box to have been seized by police. The device costs around £80 and is used by thieves to target vehicle models that operate with keyless entry. The device works by extending the signal between the vehicle and its keys. The vehicle assumes that the keys are present and unlocks itself, meaning that the thieves can get inside your vehicle without triggering a single alarm. Meaning that whilst you sleep your beloved motor could be gone in 60 seconds. There are certain models that are more likely to be stolen which well discuss below, but a recent Freedom of Information request made by the RAC shows that in 2016 alone 26,500 vehicles were stolen in London – which equates to 1 vehicle being stolen every 20 minutes.
This chart shows numbers for vehicle crime which includes the theft of cars and items stolen from within the cars.
How Do You Ensure That Your Car Remains Theft Proof?
Park In A Garage
It goes without saying that if you have a garage you should use it. Garages are designed to be secure, not just because they keep your car out of sight and away from prying eyes, but because should a criminal start eyeing up your vehicle as a potential target, there’s a lot more standing between them getting their hands on it.
Park In A Well Lit Area
Garage parking isn’t always an option and so if you don’t have access to a secure carport or driveway then it’s advisable to park in a well lit area. Thieves really don’t want to get caught and so by parking in a well-lit area with a regular flow of foot-traffic the chances of them being caught are much higher, which often deters them from targeting your vehicle in the first place. For an extra layer of security, when you park your vehicle ensure that you turn the wheels to point another car or the kerb, as this can help to prevent your vehicle from being towed.
Check That Your Vehicle Is Locked
No – we don’t think you’re silly enough not to lock your vehicle! But there are a variety of circumstances where you will think your vehicle has been locked when it hasn’t. For example; sometimes thieves use signal jammers which means that if you lock your vehicle with a key fob without checking that it worked, your vehicle may be at risk because the jammer could have prevented the signal from reaching your vehicle and locking it. Other instances where you would need to check that your vehicle was locked would be if you had an older vehicle without central locking. If your vehicle doors lock separately and people use the passenger door regularly, it’s worth checking that it has been locked after use. It is also advisable to check the boot, windows and sunroofs have been closed all the way as even the smallest of gaps can increase a vehicle’s vulnerability and therefore the risk of it being stolen.
It goes without saying that it’s important to keep your vehicle locked when you’re not in it, but there are often times when we ignore our better judgement and leave our vehicles unlocked. It could be for something as simple as running back inside your home because you forgot something, leaving your vehicle unlocked whilst you pay for fuel or leaving the vehicle and boot open whilst you unload the shopping, but each occurrence like this leaves your vehicle at risk.
Other instances include when you are defrosting your car. Leaving your vehicle unlocked and unattended whilst demisting or defrosting your vehicle not only means you run the risk of your vehicle being stolen whilst doing so, but it’s also against the law and will invalidate your car insurance – leaving you facing fines and with the hesty cost of replacing your vehicle should anything happen to it under those circumstances.
Keep Your Car Tidy And Free Of Paperwork
According to Michael Fraser, the car thief turned TV presenter, messy cars attract thieves. The way car criminals think is that if you’re that relaxed about the cleanliness of your vehicle, you may also be relaxed when it comes to your vehicle’s car security. When cleaning your vehicle it’s important to ensure that you remove any documentation which has personal information on it such as your address. Not just to protect you from identity theft but also because if a thief were to steal your vehicle away from home and find your address, they may choose to target your home as they will know that you won’t be home at that time.
Fit Security Devices Such As Alarms, Immobilisers And Trackers
If your vehicle doesn’t already have them be sure to fit security devices. Car thieves are looking for an easy steal and so if your vehicle has security measures in place to increase the chance of them being caught, they will think twice before targeting your vehicle. The same can be said for steering locks as it works by not only locking your steering into place, but by acting as a visual deterrent to those looking for an easy steal.
In addition to the above tips there are also things you can do at home to decrease the likelihood of somebody making off with your vehicle. Installing CCTV and keeping your keys hidden at night mean that opportunists who dabble in home invasion cannot make away with your motor.
What To Do If You’re Involved In A Car Theft
Well, that depends. If you’re the one thieving then you should stop, apologise and turn yourself in. And if you’re the one who has had their vehicle stolen then you should call the police.
Car crimes vary and whilst some criminals will take the entire car others will steal items from inside it or the number plates, which sounds odd but many thieves have been known to take number plates from a vehicle to put on the same type of car to commit crimes. This means that any speeding tickets, parking or congestion fines or instances where a thief fills up their vehicle with fuel and drives off without paying – will come back to haunt the rightful owner of the plates and not the person who committed the crime.
If you find that your number plates have been stolen you will need to let the police know immediately as your plates could be used for changing a stolen car’s identity to resell, burglary or ram-raiding, evading speeding tickets, parking fines or congestion charges.
If you see a car without plates report it on 101 – the non-emergency police number.