London has a problem. Gangs are using key-programming devices to create duplicate keys for a number of high-end vehicles, allowing them to gain entry to the vehicle and simply drive away.
Last year the technique was responsible for 6000 car and van thefts, which works out as an average of 17 vehicles every day. In fact, 42 per cent of all cars stolen in London were moved without the car’s keys.
One of the most common thefts involves criminals breaking a window on the car, plugging a device into the car’s OBD port and downloading the vehicle’s information to a blank key. That key is then paired with that car, allowing the thieves to turn the engine on and drive away. The devices are easy to obtain, as they’re used by legitimate mechanics for routine repairs and servicing.
Metropolitan Police has set up Operation Endeavour in an attempt to catch criminals and educate owners. This involves leafleting the most highly-targeted areas with advice, such as to fit a steering lock, park in a staffed car park and purchase a tracking device.
The problem is so severe that part of the operation involves setting up checkpoints and pulling over any car that is considered ‘at risk’. This includes new Audis, BMWs and Land Rover vehicles.
Police believe that once a car is stolen it is broken up and shipped abroad. If you own a vehicle susceptible to this type of theft, Met Police has built a site with more information on how to protect your car.