16 December 2016
Earlier this week a young AA customer service adviser’s car was attacked by a thug wielding an axe when he stopped in his car in Halesowen. Luckily he managed to lock his doors and drive away with a smashed rear passenger window.
The AA has often warned drivers of the danger, particularly in very cold spells, of the crime of ‘frosting’. This occurs with car thieves on the look-out to steal cars left unoccupied with the engine running as the owner tries to de-frost the windows. Now there appears to have been an increase in more violent episodes of car-jacking too.
Other recent cases include:
A heavily pregnant woman was pinned to the ground by two men who sprayed a noxious substance in her eyes before stealing her car according to the police.
The attackers were "lying in wait". Before they approached her VW Golf in a car park in Birmingham. She tried to run away but was knocked to the floor and had her keys stolen and her phone smashed. She went to hospital and police say she and her unborn child are "doing well".
In fact it is reported that police in Birmingham are investigating a “wave of car-jackings” after a spate of six in two weeks.
- West Midlands police have even sent out letters in the past to owners of high-performance cars warning: “You should be aware there has been a series of thefts and attempted thefts of these types of vehicles in your area over the last few months.”
- A few days ago in Bradford there was an attempted car-jacking of a Jaguar in which a pensioner was injured by some sort of gun.
- Since September police have reported there have been 66 car-jackings in West Yorkshire in which vehicles were stolen - 26 of which occurred in Bradford.
In the case of ‘frosting’, AA Insurance has warned that car owners who start their car on a frosty morning and then go back indoors, even for a moment, leave themselves open to the vehicle being stolen and not being covered by their insurance.
Commenting, Edmund King OBE, AA president, said: "For the last few years we have warned of a spate of ‘frosting’ thefts across the country. This can be a double blow to the drivers who lose their cars and may not be covered by insurance.
“However in recent weeks we have been alarmed at what appears to be an increase in more violent car-jacking incidents particularly across the Midlands and Yorkshire.
"There seems to be two types of crime at play here. In some cases, criminals are deliberately targeting high-end cars that may be stolen to order and probably shipped out of the country. At the other end are the more opportunist criminals who find it easier to steal cars by accosting vulnerable drivers and stealing the keys.
In some cases, criminals are deliberately targeting high-end cars that may be stolen to order and probably shipped out of the country. At the other end are the more opportunist criminals who find it easier to steal cars by accosting vulnerable drivers and stealing the keys
“Either way, the car keys are the weakest link in the car security chain and should be guarded like cash. Despite the recent spate of car-jacking incidents it is still a relatively rare crime but we are just advising drivers to be more vigilant.”
Tips to avoid car-jacking
Give yourself more time on frosty mornings to de-ice your car using a scraper rather than leaving the engine running and risk having the car stolen.
When out and about it pays to be vigilant rather than paranoid as these incidents are still rare.
- Keep your doors locked, particularly in urban areas.
- Know the route you're using to travel. Car-jacking gangs may be more likely to target drivers who look unsure of where they're going.
- Be aware of suspicious activity in car parks and have your keys ready when you approach your car.
- Park on a well-lit, busy street or in a car park displaying the ‘park mark’ sign which shows that it's been approved under the safer parking scheme.
- Always take your car keys out of the vehicle if you are going into shops or a petrol station even if there's someone left in the car. Similarly, keep windows closed if possible.
- Try to leave a gap between your vehicle and the car in front when stopped at traffic lights or in traffic. If you're approached by car crooks, being too close to the vehicle in front will prevent you from manoeuvring out of danger.
- If your car's nudged by another vehicle and you're suspicious of the driver's intention, don't stop, try to take the car details down and report the incident to the police. Some car-jacking gangs use the tactic of nudging a vehicle and then stealing the keys when the driver stops.
- If anyone tries to steal your car, call 999 and sound your horn to draw attention to your car.
- Protect your car keys. Don’t leave them hanging in your hallway close to the front door as criminals involved in ‘hooking’ sometimes use a fishing rod to hook your keys through the letter-box.