Sophisticated Car Theft On The Increase

Wednesday, 29. April 2015

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Having been in this industry for years there are few things that have caused me serious concern but the rapid growth in sophisticated car theft over the last few months is one of them. One leasing company won’t allow you to lease a Land Rover car without having a tracker fitted which can add quite a bit to the monthly rental.

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Thieves are even targeting vans now, not only for the money they can make on the van but also the goods or tools that are being carried around in the back. The latest high tech thefts are perpetrated by gangs using gadgets that reprogram the electronics controlling keyless entry and start systems.

There has been a lot of publicity around these thefts but few people know that the surge in thefts has come about as a result of a change in European legislation which countered anti-competitiveness by making it easier to obtain replacement keys and the ability to program them. Vehicles on the thieves radar are high end Audis, BMW’s Range Rovers and Ford Transit Vans.

Within hours of being stolen cars and vans are being exported in containers, either whole or in parts, abroad as far away as Africa. Manufacturers have been advised to look into this problem as a matter of urgency. Changes to the electronics have been called for as well as improved marking methods to identify stolen parts.

The warning came after BMW said that it had fixed a security flaw that allowed hackers to unlock the doors of up to 2.2 million Rolls-Royce, Mini and BMW vehicles. As a result the police have stepped up their anti theft operations. They launched Operation Endeavour which was a campaign against keyless car theft. Scotland Yard reported that they had made 84 arrests and an 800 strong team of officers from the Met, Kent, Essex, Hampshire, Surrey and Thames Valley seized 222 vehicles after monitoring 20 arterial roads.

In another operation a search at Felixstowe docks found 5 Range Rovers believed to have been stolen from Surrey, South Woodford and Islington in containers bound for Kenya. Hundreds of parts from a dozen BMW cars, stolen in East London, were headed for Cyprus. In order to hide the stolen parts they were stashed within a pile of motorbike parts.

The police believed that the car parts were to be forward shipped. The police and manufacturers are working on the problem but in the meantime the police are suggesting that drivers revert to 80’s technology by fixing highly visible steering and brake locks which may be enough to deter a crook from breaking in. From my point of view the law needs to be changed.

We allow people to sell the gadgets and others to buy freely online. The law only says that you must not use the equipment for illegal purposes. It should be illegal to sell or buy this equipment unless you are properly authorised to do so. Not to do this is ridiculous. By Graham Hill