High-tech methods see car thefts up by more than 50%

High-tech methods see car thefts up by more than 50%
New figures show a hugely-concerning jump in the number of vehicle thefts, prompting concern about the security of keyless technology.

According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), some 89,000 vehicles were stolen in England and Wales last year – up by 56% from 57,000 in 2016.

The RAC describes the statistics as “nothing short of shocking”.

The latest total of vehicle thefts is the highest since the year to March 2012, with all but two of the 44 police forces in England and Wales reporting a rise in vehicle crime.

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Interestingly, the ONS says there has been a “noticeable change” in the way car thieves are gaining entry, with a big rise in the number of unlocked cars being stolen.

According to the statistics authority, entering a vehicle through an unlocked door now occurs in half of all car thefts, while forcing a lock accounts for just one in seven.

The ONS figures come in the wake of reports that devices known as “relay boxes” are being bought online by criminals, who use them to extend the signal from a car owner’s fob and unlock the vehicle.

Last autumn, figures gleaned from a Freedom of Information request suggested a sharp rise in car theft as thieves bypass modern security systems.

RAC insurance spokesman Simon Williams said: “While we know that the picture is an uneven one across the country, the fact that 32,000 more people were victims of car theft last year compared to 2016 is nothing short of shocking.

“The increase can probably be put down at least in part to the rise of more digitally-savvy criminals who try to exploit vulnerabilities in modern car security systems – although we know manufacturers will do all they can to keep their vehicles secure.”

Mr Williams offered some advice for motorists, adding: “There’s a lot drivers can do to reduce the chances of being a victim of this sort of crime – from always parking in well-lit, public places and making sure their vehicle’s software is up-to-date, right through to installing ‘low tech’ equipment like steering wheel locks that could be enough to deter thieves.”

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West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner David Jamieson is among those voicing concern about the growing problem.

“I’ve been saying for a long time now that car theft is becoming an epidemic, with criminals increasingly outsmarting manufacturers,” he said.

But the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders highlighted the progress made on preventing car crime over the past two decades.

It noted that in the mid-1990s, over half a million cars were being stolen every year – far more than the current number.

Copyright Press Association 2018. Motoring News articles do not reflect the RAC's views unless clearly stated.