Thieves use hi-tech methods in 'keyless' car thefts
Thousands of motorists across the region have been left counting the cost as hi-tech thieves use ever more sophisticated methods to steal vehicles and valuables.
Instead of trying to steal the keys from people's homes, criminals have now worked out how to start the cars without them.
The 'keyless' car thefts are carried out by cloning electronic keys with the help of new technology that is used to override the target vehicle's on-board management system.
Between April and December 2014 West Midlands Police have recorded a total of 3,472 vehicle thefts and of those 1,234 were recorded as keyless crimes.
In the Black Country Sandwell was the worst hit with 186 thefts. Dudley had 143, Walsall 116 and Wolverhampton 97.
The force is now fighting back with a dedicated team of officers that was able to successfully dismantle several car theft rings operating in the region.
Vehicle crime lead officer Supt Andy Beard has the task of coming up with strategies to combat the problem. He said that the number of car thefts has plummeted nationally since the mid-1990s.
Supt Beard said: "However, as security features adapt to the techniques used by offenders, the criminals find new ways to break through cars' security systems. A new national picture shows that criminals are becoming more sophisticated when it comes to stealing cars.
"A team was set up to explore this issue and to gain a better understanding of how criminals commit this crime.
"They were extremely successful and helped dismantle several car theft rings. Their learning has now been shared with officers across the force who continue to tackle vehicle theft.
"In Birmingham officers on patrol will stop and check high value cars. They will speak to drivers and given them advice on the current trend and how to protect themselves from becoming victims."
And he urged motorists to be more vigilant by protecting vehicle from keyless thefts by using – a plastic device that covers the car's diagnostics box or by using a locking device that fits over the pedals, which can be bought from all motoring stores.
"What I must stress is that the most common way for a car to be stolen is still from thieves who see an opportunity and take it. By mistakenly leaving your car unlocked and leaving valuables on display makes you more vulnerable to vehicle theft than people using technology to gain access to your car or van," Supt beard added.
Audi owner Jonathan Hope, aged 32, fell victim to the keyless thieves who stole Prada sunglasses and gadgets worth a total of £600 from the car that was parked outside his home, in Bentley, Walsall, between 1.30am and 10am on January 4.
In Staffordshire just 51 keyless thefts were recorded for the entire county between April 1 and December 31, 2014. The models included BMWs, Audis and Land Rovers.
The force said it was not a significant problem.
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