Car crime rises 56% as keyless vehicles makes hacking ‘child’s play’ 

Car crime in Britain rises by 56% as keyless technology has made hacking into modern vehicles ‘child’s play’

  •  A surge in car crime has been fuelled by high-tech thefts of keyless vehicles 
  • 89,000 vehicles were stolen in England and Wales last year – ten every hour
  • The number of vehicle thefts jumped by more than half last year amid claims that the new technology has made hacking into modern cars ‘child’s play’

A dramatic surge in car crime has been fuelled by high-tech thefts that do not require criminals to break into the vehicle.

The number of vehicle thefts jumped by more than half last year amid claims that keyless technology has made hacking into modern cars ‘child’s play’.

A total of 89,000 vehicles were stolen in England and Wales last year, the equivalent of ten every hour, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS). This is a 56 per cent rise in just 12 months, up from 57,000 in 2016.

A dramatic surge in car crime has been fuelled by high-tech thefts that do not require criminals to break into the vehicle

It is the highest number since the year to March 2012.

In a damning indictment of how easy it has become for criminals to steal cars, the ONS said in almost half of thefts, they are ‘entering the vehicle through an unlocked door’. Motoring campaigners and police said this showed hacking into keyless cars had become the new modus operandi of ‘digitally savvy thieves’.

‘Vehicle-related theft’ – which also includes items stolen from vehicles and attempted thefts – rose by almost a fifth from 796,000 in 2016 to 929,000 last year.

Of the 44 police forces in England and Wales, all but two saw an increase in vehicle crime. The figures appear to undermine claims from manufacturers that modern cars are more secure than ever.

One senior police official said the statistics confirmed Britain was facing a car crime ‘epidemic’, while an MP said they indicated that criminals were ‘gaining the upper hand’ over manufacturers.

The figures were released less than a week after an investigation by the Daily Mail found electronic gadgets that can be used to steal cars in seconds are being sold online for as little as £100.

The number of vehicle thefts jumped by more than half last year amid claims that keyless technology has made hacking into modern cars ‘child’s play’

Using tools available on Amazon and eBay – including a lock pick, a key programming device and a blank key – a Ford Fiesta was ‘stolen’ in under two minutes.

Other devices allow thieves to steal a car without even breaking a window. Known as relay boxes and available to buy on specialist websites, they are used by criminals to extend the signal from a fob – often stored just inside the owner’s front door – to unlock the car and start the ignition.

Upmarket keyless cars such as Range Rovers, Mercedes and BMWs have been hacked into in this way. But police say affordable cars such as Ford Fiestas are also being targeted.

In its analysis, the ONS said a ‘noticeable change’ in recent years had been the ‘main method of entry’ used by car thieves.

Murders soar in London 

The capital is in the grip of a murder epidemic with a 44 per cent surge in killings over the last year.

Scotland Yard pledged to put hundreds more officers on the beat as it published new crime stats yesterday showing a big spike in knife crime, violence and muggings.

Figures released by the Metropolitan Police for the 12 months to the end of March this year show that the number of murders and manslaughters has shot up by 44 per cent. There were 157 killings in the last 12 months, including eight deaths in London’s terror attacks, compared with 109 in the previous year.

Knife crime offences are also up 21 per cent and violent robberies have risen by 36 per cent to 30,609 – or 83 a day, with many of those carried out by moped gangs.

There was also a rise in the number of sexual offences, up 11 per cent, with the number of reported rapes increasing by 18 per cent.

It revealed a sharp increase in the number of cases where thieves have stolen unlocked cars rather than having to smash a window or use a lock pick.

It said in the space of a decade, ‘entering a vehicle through an unlocked door’ had increased from occurring in one in eight incidents to half of all incidents.

Meanwhile, forcing or attempting to force the lock has fallen from one in three incidents to one in seven.

Jack Cousens, head of roads policy for the AA, said: ‘Car thieves have clearly shunned the old- fashioned opportunistic tactics of smash and grab. High-tech techniques like relay theft are becoming standard practice for thieves.’

West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner David Jamieson, who describes stealing keyless cars as ‘child’s play’, said: ‘These statistics are a shock, but not a surprise. I’ve been saying for a long time now that car theft is becoming an epidemic, with criminals increasingly outsmarting manufacturers.’

Steve Double, a Tory MP and member of the Commons transport committee, added: ‘These figures suggest the criminals are the ones with the upper hand at the moment. If the evidence shows that keyless entry is a weak spot for car security then something needs to be done or customers will quickly lose faith.’

But the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders pointed out that car theft had fallen dramatically since the mid-1990s, when more than half a million cars a year were stolen.

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