The Crime Prevention Website

This very important news story from the Met Police (which I have edited) was published yesterday.

Police are urging drivers to “protect their vehicle like they would their home”, in a week of coordinated activity to tackle keyless vehicle theft, launched today, Tuesday, 3 February.

The campaign, named Operation Endeavour, follows an 8% increase in vehicle theft across London in the last year, believed to be the result of organised criminals increasingly targeting keyless or remotely controlled vehicles.

Despite the eight percent rise in motor vehicle theft, official statistics released last month show there has been a 3.2% reduction in crime in London overall. Robbery is down 25 per cent, thefts from person are down 11% and burglaries remain at the lowest level since 1974. The MPS is committed to ensuring that we see similar decreases in theft of motor vehicles in this year, ultimately aiming for a 20% reduction by 2016.

Neighbourhood policing teams in every borough this week will be holding crime prevention events, targeted patrols and will be leafleting in hot-spot areas, to raise awareness amongst drivers.

In some boroughs, officers will be setting up check-and-advise points, where they can stop vehicles to check that they are being driven by the legitimate drivers, and provide owners with advice on protecting their vehicle.

The advice includes:

  • Use a steering wheel lock or a gear stick lock.
  • Consider getting an on-board diagnostics lock (OBD) professionally fitted.
  • Park your vehicle in a well-lit area, a garage, a staffed car park or in an area covered by CCTV.
  • Double-check the vehicle is locked when leaving it even for a moment.
  • Consider purchasing a tracking device to increase the chances of the vehicle being traced if it is stolen.
  • Vehicles owners can find information and advice about keyless vehicle theft on the MPS website page

There will also be coordinated operational activity across London and into the Home Counties by local policing teams, the MPS’ central Organised Vehicle Crime Unit (OVCU), the London Crime Squad and Automatic Number Plate Recognition Bureau. The Territorial Support Group will also be continuing operations to arrest wanted vehicle thieves.

Last year, over 6,000 cars and vans across London were stolen without the owners’ keys - an average of 17 vehicles a day representing 42% of all thefts of cars and vans.

The majority of such thefts appear to be the result of organised criminals using key-programming devices to create duplicate keys for vehicles, but it can include towing vehicles away.

Thieves use a device which bypasses the vehicle’s electronic information as the owner locks it, or they break into the vehicle and connect a device to the OBD port, downloading the vehicle’s information onto a blank key in a matter of seconds. The new key is then compatible with the vehicle, so it disables the alarm and the vehicle can simply be driven away.

The vehicles are targeted based on the desirability of their parts and range from prestige cars to vans.

Intelligence suggests activity peaks between 2200hrs and 0400hrs, Sundays to Thursdays. The vehicles are then taken to the Home Counties, where most are stripped down into their component parts and then shipped abroad. The OVCU is working with the motoring industry to keep designing out the crime as it continually evolves.

Det Ch Supt Carl Bussey, lead for Operation Endeavour said: “Many of those...arrested in connection with keyless vehicle theft have previous links to other types of serious crime......They view keyless vehicle theft as a low-risk, high-return crime, with the most valued motor engines fetching anything up to £1,000 when sold on the black market, and entire vehicles making up to £10,000..........Last year we arrested almost 1,000 people for vehicle theft, and with more coordinated activity we aim to reduce vehicle theft by 20% by 2016.

We’re working with the motoring industry to design out the crime, and we’re asking owners to take steps to protect their vehicle like they do their home. Steering wheel locks, immobilisers and tactics like parking in well-lit areas are the motoring equivalents of home security."

Mike Hawes, Chief Executive of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders Limited said: "Vehicle manufacturers invest billions of pounds to keep vehicles as secure as possible, and work tirelessly to stay one step ahead of criminals. As a result, overall thefts in the UK have decreased by more than 75% over the past 10 years and continue to fall.

The challenge remains that some forms of keyless theft involve equipment legitimately available to workshops for routine repairs and servicing, and a small minority of individuals are exploiting this to access vehicles illegally. SMMT and vehicle manufacturers continue to call for stronger safeguards within government regulations to ensure this equipment does not fall into the wrong hands. The law must also provide severe penalties to act as a deterrent."

TCPW Comment:

I am really pleased that the Met Police have drawn our attention to this latest crime problem, which will have relevance to the whole of the UK. In the same breath I am very disappointed that keyless vehicle theft could not have been foreseen by the manufacturers.

It’s all very well Mike Hawes telling us that manufacturers are tirelessly working to “stay one step ahead of the criminals”, because, quite evidently, this is not the case!

Whilst we can rely upon the police to do their very best to prevent these sorts of thefts (and we should follow their advice) it strikes me as almost crazy that we’re back to the 1990s and having to use additional steering wheel and gear stick locks and retro-fitting additional security products.

Mr Hawes tells us that billions are invested into vehicle security. Well, I once owned a Vauxhall Zafira (Mk1), which had its spare wheel nicked in seconds.  It was hung in an unsecured cradle under the back of the car and I had to retro-fit a security device to prevent a reoccurrence. Did the showroom tell me about this potential problem? – No! Had the manufacturer thought about the problem? – maybe.  Did the manufacturer do something about it? – No!

Neither should we forget that car security was almost non-existent until the Home Office published their ‘Car Theft Index’ booklet in 1992.  This booklet listed the theft rates of various car makes and models (severely embarrassing the manufacturers) which eventually acted as the catalyst for the introduction of better security, including immobilisers.

If it’s going to take an on-board diagnostics lock to help prevent this problem then it’s for the manufacturers to fit them and also to devise additional security measures to help prevent this form of theft. 

The fault is with the vehicle’s security as manufactured, not with the customer who buys it and opportunity for theft should be foreseen and acted upon – not ignored, because it won’t go away!

The full story can be read here:

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