Newly revealed figures have detailed a huge rise in car thefts in the UK over the last five years, coinciding with the mass adoption of keyless car entry and start.
Some 48.7 per cent more cars were reported stolen in the most recent year on record versus the one five years previous. In the British 2017-18 financial year, which runs from 6 April to 5 April the following year, 111,999 cars were reported stolen compared to 75,308 in 2013-14.
The latest numbers equate to one car being stolen every five minutes. Recent years have seen a vast rise in the number of cars equipped with keyless systems that can be exploited with simple ‘relay theft’ technology, allowing the cars to be driven away without causing any damage to them. They can then be stripped and sold for valuable parts around Europe.
The RAC’s insurance director, Mark Godfrey, is quoted as saying the figures were “very disappointing.” He added:
“[This is a] depressing picture of a society where it is all too easy for gangs of thieves to break in and steal vehicles.”
Relay theft usually involves a pair of thieves, one of whom stands by a house’s front door with a transceiver that locates the proximity signal from the car’s actual key. The second simply stands by the car with another device that relays the signal again, fooling the car into thinking the genuine key is nearby. The door opens obligingly.
The same process allows the car to start, after which it can be driven away to wherever it’s being stripped, or, more usually, an enclosed box van or truck nearby that hides the stolen car from number plate recognition cameras and keeps the location of its final destination - and the journey route - secret.
The best way to prevent the theft is to keep the key in a central location in the house, well away from outer walls, or inside a signal-blocking wallet or box.
Research carried out by Auto Express found that less than half of the vehicles reported as stolen are recovered. Secure your ride, people!