Vehicle tracking firm reveals how criminal theft techniques varied between the north and south of England (in 2015).
Vehicle thefts in 2015
England's north/south divide extends to the percentage of vehicles stolen with keys and the methods favoured by criminals, Tracker Network revealed. The company – that fits trackers so that such property can be traced – said that of the vehicles stolen in 2015 in the north 64% were taken with keys compared to 42% in the south.
Benefits of stealing via a key
It is in a criminal's interest to steal via a key for several reasons. Firstly, access to the cabin is instant which saves time and minimises suspicion. There is no need to (say) loiter for several minutes fiddling with locks. Secondly, the key bypasses vehicle security features such as the engine immobiliser and alarm.
Furthermore, breaking into a vehicle might cause significant damage. Such damage might have to be fixed – which has cost and time implications – or explained to (say) a buyer if the vehicle finds its way onto a forecourt. There are no such issues if the criminal has a key which opens all the doors and starts the engine.
Northern modus operandi
There are various means to steal a vehicle with a key. In 2015 in the north, a “high percentage” were taken via “2-in-1” style burglary, Tracker Network stated. It works on the premise that a house is often easier to break into than a vehicle. The thief, therefore, removes a key from a property then simply drives away.
2-in-1 burglary is risky, however. Tracker Network said that a criminal faces a “much higher sentencing tariff” if convicted than those that favour some of the other methods. The perpetrator is guilty of breaking into the property and stealing a vehicle, after all.
Southern modus operandi
In contrast, crooks in the south “tend to focus on compromising electronic security systems and key cloning”, Tracker Network said. “Microchips embedded in keyless fobs emit a signal to the car which thieves are then able to intercept and copy (thus) allowing them to start the car remotely without the owner's knowledge”, it revealed.
Alternatively, a criminal uses a blocker to jam the signal from a victim's key fob as it sends a lock signal. The vehicle is then exposed. The perpetrator might then exploit the onboard diagnostics port that connects to a computer to diagnose faults and – crucially - allows a blank fob to be configured to start the car.
Drivers must be proactive to protect vehicles
Andy Barrs, Head of Police Liaison at Tracker, said: “Motorists need to take extra steps to protect their vehicles from thieves - but especially people in the north of England. Owners need to be aware that thieves are always finding ways to crack manufacturer’s security measures, whether it’s hacking a vehicle or stealing the keys.”