car thief crime

Car thieves adopting high-tech methods as vehicle break-ins soar

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Car thieves are increasingly using a variety of “high-tech methods” to break into vehicles, AA Insurance Services (AAIS) has warned.

Figures from the Office of National Statistics showed a substantial 24.9 per cent hike in vehicle thefts in 2022 compared to the previous year.

Methods such as relay theft, key cloning and signal blocking continue to be the main methods of illegally obtaining vehicles, AAIS said.

With manufacturers improving key security and encouraging drivers to put keys to sleep to reduce these types of theft, criminals are using new advanced practices to attack vehicle security systems.

Earlier this week, three ringleaders of a high-tech car-theft racket were arrested after nearly £500,000-worth of motor vehicles were snatched across the West Midlands. They stole cars by using electronically programmed blank keys, meaning they could carry out their crimes undetected and without breaking into homes.

When it comes to taking objects from cars, faster and more traditional methods are adopted such as smashing windows or forcing windows and doors open to gain access to phones, wallets, handbags and other valuable possessions.

Gus Park, managing director at AAIS, said: “The rise in vehicle and residential thefts are worrying for everyone and highlights that security of both car and home are vitally important.

“These figures are in danger of getting out of control, which if left to spiral further will have big cost implications in terms of the impact to wider society, let alone the price policy holders pay. We urge police chiefs and crime commissioners across the country to create an action plan to crack the case.

“Unfortunately, there is no one thing that can guarantee keeping your car safe from theft, but just making it a bit harder for the thieves can make it less likely that they’ll go for your car. Don’t give miscreants an easy win; make them think about finding an easier target than your pride and joy".

In 2022, 191,094 people had items stolen from their homes, compared to 185,683 in 2021. High-value items such as laptops, tablets, mobile phones and jewellery remain the main targets for criminals.

However, the increased use of doorbell cameras is helping to identify and spot criminal activity, AAIS said.

In 2020, researchers identified “serious flaws” in car anti-theft systems from manufacturers including Toyota, Kia and Hyundai. The vulnerability could allow an attacker to use a cheap RFID reader/transmitter device near the key fob to trick the immobiliser system into unlocking.

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