The Police and Crime Commissioner for West Midlands, David Jamieson, has published stolen cars data for the region naming and shaming manufacturers whose vehicles are being taken most often.
And he has promised to publish the West Midlands Police data every six months so drivers can make informed decisions about which vehicles to buy based on the likelihood of them being stolen.
West Midlands was highlighted as the area where car owners are most at risk of having their vehicle stolen in Office of National Statistics data reported by Which? earlier this year.
Mr Jamieson is especially concerned about the vulnerability of keyless vehicles and the PCC has been leading a national campaign calling on motor manufacturers to close security loopholes. In 2018 he met with BMW, Honda, Ford, Nissan, Audi and Jaguar Land Rover to demand they do more to prevent cars from being taken by crooks.
The latest set of statistics show that Fords are the most popular car amongst thieves. The number of those stolen has risen five-fold in just three years from 489 in 2015 to 2,438 in 2018.
Even when you take that into account the popularity of brands in the region, the level of thefts, says Mr Jamieson, is still disproportionately high.
Keyless technology makes it easier for organised crime
Experts within West Midlands Police say that whilst keyless technology has made life more convenient for the motorist it has also made stealing vehicles easier for criminals.
The Commissioner’s data also reveals that Audi and BMW have both seen more than a three-fold increase in the theft of their vehicles in our region.
Some manufacturers appear to have been listening to concerns and consumer magazine Which? recently reported that Jaguar Land Rover’s Discovery, Range Rover and Jaguar i-Pace vehicles were the only cars found to be completely secure out of 237 models tested. The tests involved attempts to trick the keyless cars into thinking its key was closer than it really was, enabling thieves to unlock and or start the car.
The Jaguar i-Pace fared well in a series of Which? security tests
Richard Billyeald, chief technical officer at Thatcham Research comments: “Unfortunately, we are seeing an increase in car thefts over the past 18 months, and our intelligence suggests that it is being driven by organised crime gangs. These gangs can be quite resourceful so car makers need to react.
“Encouragingly, we are seeing some new technologies starting to emerge from car makers such as Mercedes and Jaguar Land Rover to prevent specific types of theft. An example is car keys that essentially go to sleep and don’t give out a signal unless they are moving, but it can take time for this new technology to be developed and rolled out.”
A spokesperson for Ford, who topped the list published by David Jamieson, confirmed that new, more secure, technology will be introduced to their most popular models with no increase in price from this month: “Ford has prepared for production a motion sensor in Fiesta and Focus key fobs. After a fob has been still for 40 seconds, it goes into ‘sleep’ mode – blocking any use of a signal booster to illegally extend its range to access the car. The feature is added to Ford’s two top-selling cars in Fiesta and Focus, from this month and May respectively, with no corresponding price increase.
“In order to make its best-selling cars as secure and robust as possible, Ford’s new fob when stationery ignores signals from its paired vehicle. This immobilises keyless opening when the car is parked up and its fob stored inside a home or work place. Grabbing the fob on the way to the car produces enough motion to automatically reactivate the fob, which has been engineered to communicate with its respective car only within a two-metre radius.
What to do if your vehicle has been stolen
1. Call your local police station and report the vehicle stolen.
Dial 101 and ask to be put through to your local police.
Make sure you have your vehicle’s:Registration number Make and model Colour
You’ll get a crime reference number. You’ll need this when you call your insurance company.
The police will tell DVLA about the theft and if the vehicle is found.
2. Call your insurance company.
3. Tell the DVLA if your insurance company pays out.
Read the full Government advice here
“This product update is proof of how seriously Ford Motor Company takes vehicle security and continuously invests to deter theft of, and from, its vehicles. Ford advises that other fobs should not be stored just inside a front door within close range of the car outside. Shielded storage pouches are available from Ford dealerships, which are TASSA (Tracking & Aftermarket Security System Association) approved.”
Ford’s spokesperson also added that the manufacturer has campaigned against the availability of the technology used by thieves to exploit keyless entry systems, arguing that “there is no lawful reason for any member of the public to possess or use booster and relay devices”.
Keyless cars are increasingly being targeted by organised gangs who are taking advantage of weaknesses in vehicle security systems. Once stolen the vehicles are often shipped abroad or cut up and sold for parts in illegal garages.
David Jamieson, said: “It is no longer a secret that most manufacturers have taken their eye off the ball when it comes to vehicle security.
“As keyless technology has grown in popularity more and more cars have vanished from driveways as their owners sleep. Some vehicles are being stolen by criminals in less than a minute.
“The data I am publishing will allow consumers to see how secure the cars they are buying really are.
“I am pleased to see that local firm JLR are tackling the problem head on. It is an example to the rest of the industry.
“West Midlands Police know I expect it to do more too. However, in recent months the force has netted 1,000 suspects and recovered hundreds of vehicles.
“This is vital work, but often very dangerous. These criminals are not only taking what doesn’t belong to them, but putting lives at risk.”
ONS data showed that as many as 82,000 vehicles were stolen across England and Wales between April 2017 and March 2018. West Midlands was deemed the area where car owners are most at risk of having their car stolen, with 12.7 vehicle-related theft offences per 1,000 people recorded.
London, Greater Manchester, West Yorkshire and South Yorkshire also fared poorly in the ONS stats, while the areas least at risk include Norfolk, North Yorkshire, North Wales, Cumbria and Dyfed-Powes.