The Police and Crime Commissioner for the West Midlands says he is so angry at the apparent ease at which criminals are stealing cars that he has taken it upon himself to name and shame manufacturers whose vehicles are easy to steal.
David Jamieson has promised to publish car theft data for the region every six months so motorists in the area can make informed decisions about which vehicles to buy based on the likelihood of them targeted by criminal gangs.
The recent figures provided by Mr Jamieson show vehicle thefts in the area had risen 196 per cent in the last three years – especially due to the spike in keyless vehicle crime – and suggests that Fords are most often earmarked as easy targets by thieves.
Theft spike: The number of stolen vehicles reported in the West Midlands is up by 196% in just 3 years, new data released by the Police and Crime Commissioner, David Jamieson, shows
Car crime is unquestionably on the rise in the UK.
This is Money reported in January that a vehicle is stolen every five minutes in Britain, with thefts up by 50 per cent in the last five years.
The latest statistics revealed by West Midlands Police show that 7,452 cars were stolen in the region last year – up from 2,521 in 2015, while separate data last year named Birmingham third as car theft hotspot of Britain.
It’s one of the UK’s best-selling brands, Fords, that are targeted most frequently in the area, which have risen disproportionately in the last three years, Mr Jamieson said.
In fact, the figures state that Ford thefts in the area were up a staggering 399 per cent, rising from 489 in 2015 to 2,438 in 2018.
Premium brands, including Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz. were next on the list as the most often stolen cars, followed by Vauxhall.
Audi and BMW have both seen more than a threefold increase in theft of their vehicles in the region while cases of stolen Mercedes models is up a whopping 428 per cent, the commissioner’s data revealed.
|BRAND||2015||2016||2017||2018||% INCREASE FROM 2015-18|
|Land Rover/Range Rover||99||95||190||396||300%|
Ford is the brand that most criminal gangs are going after using remote theft tactics
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.
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
David Jamieson, Police & Crime Commissioner, West Midlands
In a statement made on Friday, West Midlands Police said: ‘The PCC took the decision to publish the statistics, despite opposition from motor manufacturers, after growing increasingly concerned that not enough was being done to make cars secure.
‘The statistics, which have been supplied by West Midlands Police, will continue to be published every six months until thefts return to the relatively low levels seen in 2015.’
Mr Jamieson is now leading a national campaign calling on motor manufacturers to close security loopholes in their technology to better protect owners.
Audi thefts in the West Midlands are up by 233%, the new figures show
BMW is another of the premium brands being targeted by gangs, who either sell the vehicle to export markets or break them down into spare parts for sale
Owners of Mercedes-Benz cars have seen the biggest spike in thefts in the region, up a staggering 428% between 2015 and 2018
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.
Of the six firms contacted, it appears Jaguar Land Rover has taken real action to solve the issue.
Consumer magazine Which? recently reported that JLR’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.
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
Richard Billyeald, Thatcham Research
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.
West Midlands Police said it has been doubling its efforts to clampdown on vehicle crime, with a recent drive against thefts leading to almost 1,000 arrests and 600 cars being recovered.
Mr 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.’
He added: ‘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.’
Keyless car crime has become a real issue for manufacturers, though some are taking measures in an attempt to block it
UK vehicle security experts Thatcham Research echoed Mr Jamieson’s concerns and said vehicle manufacturers need to do more to protect owners from organised crime rings.
Richard Billyeald, chief technical officer at Thatcham Research said: ‘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.’
Policing minister, Nick Hurd, last month chaired a new taskforce to tackle vehicle theft in the country
Thatcham Research said there is action being taken.
‘To help speed up adoption of these types of technologies, the mandatory security assessments that are given to all new cars, NVSA, have been updated for 2019, and are centred on securing cars against the growing threat presented by digital compromise, Mr Billyyeald said.
The NVSA is the security standard against which all new cars are assessed as part of insurance Group Rating and will be updated in 2019 giving carmakers the opportunity to bring in fresh measures to address the challenges presented by digital theft techniques.
The new criteria are designed to shut down the Keyless Entry vulnerability, while anticipating other potential methods of digital and cyber-compromise.
However, the security experts say a more holistic approach is needed to go head-to-head with criminal gangs.
Mike Hawes, chief executive of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, refuted the suggestion that cars are easier to steal.
‘Industry takes vehicle crime extremely seriously and is investing billions in ever more sophisticated security features – ahead of any regulation.
‘However, we continue to call for action to stop the open sale of equipment which helps criminals steal cars – equipment which has no legal purpose – and have joined both the West Midlands Police and West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner’s representatives in a new Home Office taskforce to see how this can be addressed.’
The policing minister, Nick Hurd, last month chaired this new taskforce to tackle vehicle theft.
The taskforce replicates the successful model used to reduce moped-related crime in London, which fell by a third in the period from January to October 2018 compared with the same period in 2017.
It’s made up of a combination of automotive industry insiders, government departments and police forces who will drive forward action to reduce and prevent vehicle crime and promote best practice.
The group will meet every six months and publish an action plan with new measures to disrupt these criminal networks centred around car crime.
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