Tackling Chiswick's 'Keyless' Car Thefts

Police launch awareness campaign urging owners to take extra precautions


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As police launch an awareness campaign to tackle the incidence of 'keyless' vehicle thefts, local police say the numbers of such thefts have dropped recently in Chiswick.

In the past three months there have been two cars stolen by the keyless method, one from Hartington Road in November and one from Grove Park Gardens in January. Both were Range Rovers - one has since been  recovered, but one is still outstanding.

Over a quarter of vehicles are stolen without the owners' keys, police have revealed as they mount an awareness week to urge owners to take extra precautions.

Ford Transit and Mercedes Sprinter vans, Ford Fiestas, and some BMW and Land Rover models accounted for 70% of all vehicles stolen without their keys in 2014.

Chiswick is one area where cars such as BMWs and Land Rovers have been regularly stolen, often from behind locked gates. One stolen car was found last year at Tilbury Docks, about to be shipped to west Africa.

Thieves use a device which bypasses the vehicle’s electronic information as the owner locks it, or they break into the vehicle and connect a device to the OBD port, downloading the vehicle’s information onto a blank key in a matter of seconds. The new key is then compatible with the vehicle, so it disables the alarm and the vehicle can simply be driven away.

Police say that this crme peaks between 2200hrs and 0400hrs, when it is dark, Sundays to Thursdays. The majority of thefts are by organised gangs using key-programming devices to create duplicate keys for vehicles.The disappearance of a vehicle overnight is bewildering for owners who are convinced they have properly locked their car.

Criminals drive the vehicles into the home counties, where most are stripped down into their component parts and then shipped abroad. They are sold on as far afield as Africa, where particular types of vehicle are in high demand.

24,062 vehicles of all kinds were stolen across London, of which 6,283 were keyless thefts - that is 26% of all vehicle thefts. Forty-two per cent of these were cars and vans.

East London is the borough most affected by keyless vehicle theft. In Hounslow borough the figure was 130 for the year, a better result than Redbridge at 602 but not as good as Kingston at 35.

The vehicles are targeted based on the desirability of their parts and range from prestige cars to vans.

Police advise people not to leave valuables on display

Police officers are out in force this week urging drivers to “protect their vehicle like they would their home”, in a week of coordinated activity to tackle keyless vehicle theft

The campaign, codenamed Operation Endeavour, follows an 8% increase in vehicle theft across London in the last year.

Neighbourhood policing teams in every borough will hold local crime prevention events, targeted patrols and will be leafleting in hot-spot areas, to raise awareness amongst drivers.

Advice includes using a steering wheel lock or gear-stick lock; getting on-board diagnostics lock (OBD) professional fitted; parking in an area with CCTV; double-checking the vehicle is locked;
Consider purchasing a tracking device to increase the chances of the vehicle being traced if it is stolen

Det Ch Supt Carl Bussey, lead for Operation Endeavour, said the gangs regard keyless vehicle theft as a low-risk, high-return crime, with the most valued motor engines fetching anything up to £1,000 when sold on the black market, and entire vehicles making up to £10,000.

“Last year alone we arrested almost 1,000 people for vehicle theft, and with more coordinated activity we aim to reduce vehicle theft by 20% by 2016.

“We know that criminals are targeting all sorts of vehicles - not just the most expensive - so if you value your vehicle, then it is worth investing time and money on extra security.”

Mike Hawes, Chief Executive of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders Limited, said: "The challenge remains that some forms of keyless theft involve equipment legitimately available to workshops for routine repairs and servicing, and a small minority of individuals are exploiting this to access vehicles illegally. SMMT and vehicle manufacturers continue to call for stronger safeguards within government regulations to ensure this equipment does not fall into the wrong hands. The law must also provide severe penalties to act as a deterrent."

Vehicles owners can find information and advice about keyless vehicle theft on the new MPS website www.met.police.uk/keylessvehicletheft .

February 4, 2015