A sharp increase in the number of car thefts which have taken place over the course of a year has given motorists and official authorities pause for concern. Between September 2021 and 2022, the number of car thefts rose by 29%. However, experts predict this number may increase as time goes on.
The figures come from newly released data from the Office for National Statistics, but there are concerns that the problem will get worse over time. Official predictions by the AA suggest that incidents of car theft will become more common throughout 2023. They attribute this to the rising cost of living, which is pushing many people into criminal activity out of desperation to survive.
The methods being used in these thefts vary from one situation to the next. Older models of cars are still falling victim to the traditional “smash and grab” technique. However, newer models, as well as more advanced thieves, are using relay attacks to override the signal coming from a key fob. They can then use this to unlock the car remotely, get into it and steal it with minimal fuss.
While the items inside a car are stolen on a very opportunistic basis, the vehicle itself is often an intended target, with specific models being taken to fill an order. It’s very typical for a thief to steal a car, take it to a shop, dismantle the vehicle for parts, or simply ship it abroad, where it will be sold and used.
The general advice of the AA is that vehicle owners should start to invest in more security items. Steering wheel locks and wheel clamps are effective ways to deter thieves from trying to take a vehicle because the time it takes to disable or remove them is a massive risk for them. Drivers are also being reminded that they should check their vehicle is securely locked whenever they leave it, even if it’s just for a few minutes on a street corner.
Meanwhile, cars with keyless fobs should keep all of their primary and backup key fobs in what is called a faraday pouch. This prevents signals from reaching the fob, meaning that a thief cannot remotely hijack it. It’s also worth looking to see if the company that made the car is offering a motion-sensitive key fob, such as the case with Ford, as this prevents the key fob from being used if it has been left to sit still.
Finally, the AA cautions that the immobiliser or tracking device on a vehicle is no longer an effective method for preventing theft, as these can also be overridden by thieves. It’s also not sensible to leave keys lying around in a visible location.
Unfortunately, many experts predict that the security measures are simply the beginning of an ongoing risk to car owners as more and more people turn to organised crime to try and combat the cost of living crisis.