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Keyless car thefts are on the rise - here's how you can stop them

By Dayna Farrington | Crime | Published:

Keyless vehicles are proving child’s play for thieves to steal leading to a car crime epidemic, a West Midlands Police boss has warned.

Gone in 60 seconds – the fob emits a signal and the car thieves simply need to get close enough to use an amplifier and trick the car into thinking the key is nearby, opening the doors. Photo: businesscarmanager.co.uk

David Jamieson, the police and crime commissioner for the West Midlands, said the number of car thefts in the West Midlands Police force area had doubled in two years – as thieves exploit the technology to steal vehicles from driveways and car parks.

The technology has been designed to increase convenience for motorists – with a small fob to unlock vehicles and ignition button to drive.

But, criminals are exploiting it – with devices including relay boxes, available to buy on Amazon and eBay for £260.

WATCH footage of a relay theft:

Relay attack Solihull

The gadgets let criminals pick up the signal from the car’s keyless fob inside the owner’s home and extend this signal to unlock the car and start it.

Manufacturers insist cars are more secure than ever, but police are now urging drivers to do their bit to stop car thieves in their tracks.

Advice includes:

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  • Use a steering wheel lock
  • Store your fob in a biscuit tin or special case to protect it.
  • Keep your fob well away from exterior walls and doors.
  • Contact your dealer to see if the fob can be switched off or if there any software updates.

It follows security camera footage from a home in Solihull released last year that showed how easy it was for criminals to steal cars using the technology.

In the video one thief stayed by the car while another simply held his transmitter up the door before the car doors were automatically opened.

Mr Jamieson blamed the increase in car crime on the keyless systems and rejected claims from the motor industry that cars have never been more secure.

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He said: “Car thefts have doubled in two years – that’s an epidemic.

"The West Midlands has probably experienced the biggest rise in the country outside London, but this problem is getting worse everywhere with big urban areas.

West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner David Jamieson

“This is making our lives really difficult. It’s sucking up loads of police time that should be dealing with other more serious crime.

“At the moment it’s kid’s play – it takes 30 to 40 seconds to get in and off you go.” Car theft offences have soared by almost a third in three years in England and Wales.

The latest figures, released by 40 police forces after Freedom of Information requests by RAC, showed 85,688 vehicles stolen in 2016 – up 30 per cent from 65,783 in 2013.

"West Midlands Police Superintendent Mark Parnell previously said that sophisticated keyless vehicle thefts were making up many of vehicle thefts in the Black Country.

He added: “We are seeing criminals getting hold of computer type devices that are able to break in to vehicles using this technology. It is a more sophisticated criminality which may be linked to organised crime. We are working with industry to limit the availability of equipment.”

He said the force was also targeted chop shops, which are used to strip valuable parts from stolen cards for order.

Dayna Farrington

By Dayna Farrington
Senior reporter based at Wolverhampton

Reporter for the Express & Star based at Wolverhampton.

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