Lockdown could lead to car crime spike, warn experts

The coronavirus outbreak and associated lockdown could push up car crime around the UK, according to car theft experts.

The outbreak has seen most car makers and parts manufacturers suspend production, affecting the supply of new replacement parts. Now stolen car recovery experts Tracker are warning that the shortage of parts could lead to a surge in car break-ins and thefts.

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The company says that police are already fighting a rising tide of “chop shops” where stolen cars are stripped down for parts which are then sold. And its experts believe the shortage of legitimate parts will encourage more opportunistic thefts as criminals look to exploit demand.

Premium, new and collectable vehicles are the most frequently stolen for their parts, but no car is immune, with Tracker even recovering a £600 VW Polo recently. According to Tracker, cars stolen by chop shops are often left for up to four days to check they are not being tracked, before being taken to a garage where their high-value parts are removed for re-sale.

Clive Wain, head of police liaison at Tracker said: “These are unprecedented times, and sadly we cannot look into the future to see how long the current restrictions will affect the car manufacturer supply chain. However, what we can do is protect ourselves while it does.

“With movement so restricted, most of us are using our cars far less frequently, so it is easy to get out of the habit of checking doors are locked and keys are secured after those rare essential journeys. It’s even easier to forget these good habits after popping out to the car to collect something you left behind.

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"Ninety-two per cent of the vehicles we recovered last year were stolen without the thief having possession of the vehicle’s keys. As such, we advise owners of all vehicles to take extra care to fully secure their vehicle and keep remote locking keys as far away from the car as possible, and in a closed tin so that they are protected against relay attacks.”

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How to protect your car from lockdown thieves

Tracker has offered the following tips on protecting your unused vehicle during lockdown:

  • Protect your key fob: Keyless car theft works through a relay-style electronic device tricking your key fob signal into thinking the key is near to the car and then the device can assume all key fob power. To prevent this, keep the key – and the spare too - away from where the vehicle is kept, and block the signal by keeping the key fob in a closed tin or Faraday bag.
  • Switch off and lock up: Never leave your car running idle and unattended, even when defrosting windscreens and windows on a cold morning.
  • Make life difficult: Fit security posts or a substantial gate if parking on your drive, physical barriers will make thieves think twice.
  • Don’t advertise your stuff: Never leave your belongings on show, lock them in the boot or take them with you
  • Keep paperwork indoors – Don’t store car documents or spare keys inside the car as it makes it easier for thieves to sell it on
  • Plan for the worst: Take car security measures to protect your car from being stolen in the first place, such as installing security lighting where you park your car and using a steering wheel lock.