The many faces of modern car crime

Stay safe

Have your car’s windows etched with its registration and VIN.

Park in a well-lit place and, if on your driveway, facing your house so that the thief will have to reverse the car.

If your car has keyless entry, check if you can disable the system; and if not, if a software update is available enabling you to.

Block the key signal by storing it in a Faraday pouch or a tin lined with metallic foil.

Fit an ECU security cradle.

Have your car’s security system updated to accept only two keys.

Fit a mechanical lock, such as a gearstick or steering-wheel lock.

Catalytic converter theft

If you think relay attacks on driveways are audacious, catalytic converter thefts are in another league. Many are done in broad daylight by the roadside and even in supermarket car parks. The thieves are after the precious metals that the converters contain and which, having passed through various hands, fetch astronomical sums on the open market.

According to figures obtained from police forces in England and Wales by the BBC, 13,000 converters were recorded stolen in 2019, compared with 2000 the year before. Last April, Ageas, one of the UK’s biggest car insurers, reported a steep rise in converter thefts during lockdown, stating they accounted for around a third of all theft claims (before lockdown, it was a fifth).

However, good news may be on the horizon. Converter thefts peaked this March, with 3245 recorded. The next month, the British Transport Police co-ordinated a multi-agency operation to tackle the problem. More than 1000 stolen converters were recovered and more than 50 people were arrested. Since then, thefts have declined steadily, with only 1378 recorded in July.

The NPCC credits improved liaison between forces for the reduction, as well as a new national database of stolen converters marked with an invisible special formula that contains a unique reference code. Developed by Smartwater Group, the high- temperature-resistant product can be applied to the converter when the vehicle is in a workshop for servicing or an MOT test.


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