First off, why has there been such a significant increase in car theft?
“One reason for the increase in thefts is the widespread availability of keyless entry systems on cars. Most new cars are fitted with keyless entry systems, so old-fashioned hot-wiring simply wouldn’t work. Instead, thieves use a signal receiver to pick up the radio waves in range of the real fob, beam them to a receiver near the car, then activate the signal from the receiver. This creates a copy of the fob, giving them the ability to unlock the car and commit the crime. Despite this, a car key is used to steal almost half of all vehicles in the UK. So, being vigilant of where you keep your key is one of the best ways to prevent theft.” – Karl Chopra, founder of Design 911
“Back in the mid-90s, car theft was hugely prevalent, with 650,000 vehicles stolen every year. It decreased in 2015 to about 75,000 but what we’ve seen in the last five years is an increase up into the 100,000s. Now, we’re dealing with a different type of theft than back in the 90s. Cars are stolen now as part of larger organised crime. We now have to deal with the parts market, which is where criminals will buy cars from a salvage yard and then steal the equivalent model, but a fully working version, and strip it for its parts in order to repair the old vehicle. That then gets sold on for a hefty profit.” – Richard Billyeald, chief technical officer at Thatcham Research
Have you seen any trends appear in relation to car crime?
“Yes. The Driving and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) released the figures following a Freedom of Information request by Rivervale Leasing, which listed the cars most likely to be stolen. The most popular models are a Ford Fiesta and Land Rover Range Rover, while the least likely to get stolen are Audis and BMW 5 series. This is most likely because the parts for a Ford Fiesta and Range Rover can easily be sold and exchanged.” – Karl
“I think the increase in general is largely because car crime doesn’t have strong enough penalties. It’s a risk that lots of criminals are willing to take because the punishment doesn’t worry them.” – Richard
Are all cars tested for security before hitting the market?
“Yes. However, it is recommended you carry out your own vehicle security check too. The government has released a vehicle security checklist including checking for roof, lock and external compartment damage. MOT tests could soon be set for digital checks to ensure cars cannot be hacked by fraudsters either.” – Karl
“We undertake a vehicle security assessment on every model that comes into the UK. The assessment is effectively a points system, and we pass on the final scores to the insurers. We check everything mechanical and physical, like whether you can jig the locked door open with a screwdriver. Lots of manufacturers also choose to ID parts, which means they stamp an ID number on the parts so they’re easier to identify should the vehicle be stolen and the parts sold on. We also do an electronic assessment, where we check the functionality of the back-up battery on alarms, how long the alarm goes off for and how long it takes to set it off. This part of the assessment also involves checking keyless entry.” – Richard