Car thefts spike as gangs adapt to new tech

Police data reveals there has been a 30% increase in car thefts over the past three years, as thieves bypass modern vehicle security systems.

Security experts believe the rise is partly down to criminal gangs catching up with technology, with police footage released in November showing how they were able to steal vehicles without needing keys.

Many cars now have a push button fob instead of a traditional metal key, but these new devices can sometimes be compromised.

Relay Crime footage. Credit: West Midlands Police

Video: Thieves steal car in ‘relay crime’

Steve Launchbury, of Thatcham Research, told Sky News: “As the car is more digitally connected, obviously that opens it up to new types of criminality.

“When you have keyless-type vehicles where you physically just press a button and walk away, you’ve got the risk now of the signal being captured.”

A Freedom of Information request showed that a total of 65,783 vehicles were reported stolen to 40 police forces in England and Wales in 2013, but by 2016 it had risen to 85,688.

Simple counter-theft measures like parking your car in a safe and sensible place are still recommended by experts

Image: Simple counter-theft measures like parking cars in a safe place are still deterrents

London experienced the most thefts, with 26,496 vehicles reported stolen to the Metropolitan Police in 2016.

This was followed by the West Midlands, where 5,930 thefts were reported, and then West Yorkshire, where 5,597 vehicles were stolen.

The RAC, which put forward the FOI, say the best protection is – ironically – low tech.

Pete Williams from the RAC continues to recommend 'traditional security methods'

Image: Pete Williams from the RAC continues to recommend ‘traditional security methods’

“If you’re buying a new vehicle I would look around and see some of the reviews, especially in terms of the best technology out there because they are improving fast,” the RAC’s Pete Williams told Sky News.

“But for the vast majority of us, it’s the traditional security methods that we would recommend. Think about where you park your car, try and park in a well lit area and if it’s an area known for car crime or vandalism, try and avoid it.

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“But then think about your vehicle itself – don’t leave secure valuables on show in the vehicle, that’s going to be an invitation.

“And then potentially use things we saw back in the 80s and 90s, like a security lock. These are both a visual and physical deterrent and we are seeing people returning to them now.”