Frost Thieves are After Cars

Don't leave temptation on the drive

During November's cold snap you could almost hear the wails of disbelief as dozens of car owners found their precious motors missing, bringing an early Christmas bonanza for thieves.

"I was only warming it up and popped back indoors to get my stuff … finish off my cup of tea … say goodbye to the kids". You could add many more reasons why the car was left unattended, with the keys in the ignition and the engine ticking over.

Owners may not welcome a freezing morning, but you might just as well have put up a sign 'please steal me' if the spate of car thefts so far this winter is anything to go by.

Edmund King, president of the AA, points out: "Keys really are the weakest link in the car security chain, and you should treat them like cash.

"Last year on average 52 cars per day disappeared because the thief was able to use the car's keys. Thefts ranged from 'frosting' cases that we saw with the first cold snap of the winter, to keys being stolen from inside people's homes. Although the total number of cars being stolen has been falling, the number taken last year following burglary or robbery of the keys jumped by nearly 20% to almost 150,000.

"Modern cars are almost impossible to steal without the keys. And alarmingly, just over half of all key burglaries took place while the householder was at home."

Edmund says you should consider your keys in the same way as cash. "The average value of the cars that disappear following theft of keys or driving cars away off drives is just under £10,000 – the thieves generally know what they are looking for and they go for upmarket marques.

"You wouldn't leave £10k in cash sitting on your drive unattended, yet it seems that in effect many people do just that."

What happens to these cars?

Most vehicles are never recovered, and the police believe they are put in containers and shipped overseas. If they are found, there's often not much left – valuable engines, transmissions, and even doors and seats have been removed.

"The message is – never leave your car keys unattended," says Edmund. "Keep them in a safe place about your person, rather than just in a jacket pocket or handbag. When you get home, put them in a drawer and not hanging on a hook or sidetable just inside the front door – keys are often 'fished for' by thieves using a long pole or fishing rod through the letterbox. Don't leave them on your desk at work, and always take them with you (after locking your car), when paying for fuel, feeding a parking meter or taking your shopping indoors.

"Talk to your car insurer about security too. For instance, if you fit a tracker, you could get a worthwhile discount on your premium.

"Clear out your garage and keep your car in it – and you won't need to scrape the ice off it on cold mornings.

"And, of course, never leave an unattended car ticking over on a frosty morning. Because for sure, you'll get a very frosty reception from your insurance company if it disappears."