Over the past year or so, there’s been an alarming spike in the number of reported incidences of vehicle theft in the UK’s largest cities, with data released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) earlier this year indicating that vehicle thefts were up 29% on the previous year as of September 2022. The worrying upward trend in crime doesn’t only relate to theft of vehicles, but also to theft from vehicles, with the latter up a reported 14%.1 With the UK still in the throes of the cost-of-living crisis, experts are predicting that vehicle crime is likely to become even more prevalent as people resort to crime.2
It's never therefore been more prudent to take the necessary steps to protect your vehicle and deter opportunistic thieves. Here are a few useful tips to help you prevent your vehicle becoming a target.
Always lock your car securely
If a car is left unlocked, it’s a far softer target for an opportunistic thief. This might sound like it goes without saying, but don’t underestimate how easy it is for this to slip your mind if you’re busy getting your children out of the car, or unloading a large amount of shopping. Always double check it’s locked and that the windows and sunroof are closed securely. It can also be tempting to leave the car unlocked if you’re only leaving it momentarily unattended, perhaps while warming it up in cold winter weather. During the colder months, auto theft rises by about 25%, a trend which occurs largely because winter nights are longer and darker, offering thieves more time and cover to carry out large numbers of vehicle thefts.
Did you know, though, that the Metropolitan Police actually rule it illegal to leave a car running unattended in this way?3 Moreover, if it’s stolen in this state, your insurer very likely won’t pay out as you won’t be covered.
Don’t leave any valuables in your car
Whilst the theft of vehicles is often planned, theft from vehicles is largely opportunistic. Criminals only need a moment to spot an easy target, such as a laptop bag on the back seat, and perform a “smash and grab” theft. Any valuables left in the car make it a tempting target, so it’s always worth checking that you’ve not left anything in the car at the end of a journey.
Look after your keys
Vehicles are far more difficult to steal if a thief can’t gain access to the keys or key fob. Once you get home, make sure the keys are secure and out of view, as thieves have been known to use rods and hooks to snatch them from a sideboard near the door via the letterbox.
If you have a car with keyless entry, be mindful that thieves can use devices to fool the car into thinking the key is close by, which unlocks the car and starts the ignition, even if the fob itself is safe inside your home – it only needs to be nearby. To protect a car with keyless entry, use a signal-blocking faraday bag to store your keys in order to prevent criminals capturing the signal of your fob.
Invest in security to deter thieves
A steering wheel lock can be an excellent way of making your car a less appealing target, as it’s not only practically effective but also easy to spot. As such, an opportunistic thief might choose to pass over your vehicle for an easier target, not believing it worthwhile to take time removing the lock. Additionally, you might want to fit your vehicle with a tracker or immobiliser such as the Tracker S5 Plus, Ghost II, Scorpion X or NoGo. These products are all approved by Thatcham, the industry benchmark for alarms, immobilisers and trackers. It’s worth remembering to keep up to date with the subscriptions for your vehicle tracking device, as if it is overdue, your car insurance policy might be affected.
Store your car securely if possible
If you have access to a garage, we recommend you use it to store your car, as not only does keep your car out of sight, it also keeps your vehicle more physically secure. A strong lock can help prevent thieves gaining access, while visible deterrents like CCTV cameras and floodlights might make them think twice. Your garage can also be added to your home’s alarm system, offering an additional layer of protection.