Car key crime

AA president warns police car crime conference of drivers' concerns

21 May 2009

Sixty per cent of AA members think that car crime has become more violent in recent years, according to new figures from an AA/Populus poll of 10,112 released at the International Association of Auto Theft Investigators conference on 20 May.

AA president, Edmund King, told the conference that despite the fact that vehicle crime has fallen 66% since the mid 90s that there were still almost 1.5m vehicle related thefts in 2007/08 and that car crime still accounts for 13% of all recorded crime.

AA/Populus poll results

  • 76% believe car manufacturers have improved security, but car crime still concerns them
  • 63% believe that older cars are more vulnerable to theft than newer cars
  • 56% believe that anti-theft systems, which require a retina finger-print scan in order for the car to start are a good idea
  • 65% believe that knowing that Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) cameras are used makes them feel safer

King told the conference that trends in car crime are changing. Police forces have warned the AA that high value cars are being targeted.

As these vehicles have more sophisticated security devices, immobilisers and alarms, the criminals are now increasingly targeting car keys to steal these vehicles.

Criminals target vehicles and then 'turn' the house - generally when occupiers are asleep or when they are out/away - and specifically target the keys. Often these vehicles are then parked up at a busy location such as a supermarket car park and watched. This will show if there is any police interest due to public phone calls or tracker intelligence. If they spot no police involvement then they return to the vehicle a few days later and complete their crime. Many higher end vehicles are going out the country in containers.

The advice for people with high value and performance cars is to be more vigilant. Watch where you park, where your put keys particularly if the house is empty and the vehicle parked outside. Only 17% park in a garage over night.

New trends in car crime

  • Hooking: thieves using a fishing rod or wire to hook keys through the letter box
  • Jacking: thieves target car at traffic lights, pull out driver and steal vehicle
  • Frosting: on cold, frosty mornings thieves target expensive cars left with engine running on drive-ways to defrost winscreens
  • Snatching: thieves snatch hand-bags or pick pocket to get car keys

Edmund King, AA president, said; "Despite a big drop in car crime since the mid 90s there are still more than 1.5million individuals affected each year. We have noticed a shift from the more opportunist car crime of so-called joy-riding to more sophisticated crime aimed at top of the range vehicles. The criminals now target the car keys as the weakest link in the car security chain.

"Last year 15,700 cars were stolen after keys were taken in a burglary and 2,900 cars stolen after keys talken in muggings, pick pockets or car jacking. The AA advises all car drivers to treat their car keys like cash - guard and protect your keys to keep hold of your car."

Other speakers at the IAATI conference at Stonleigh Park, Warwickshire on 20/21 May 2009 included motoring journalist Quentin Wilson and ex-Liverpool FC defender, Phil Neal.


21 May 2009