It may surprise you that car crime accounts for 13% of all recorded crime in England and Wales over the past 10 years. It's a shocking statistic, and one that leaves more than 1.5 million motorists out of pocket each year.
Having your car broken into or stolen is traumatic in itself, and having to pay the excess on an insurance claim along with losing your no claims bonus only adds insult to injury. However, you’ll be glad to know that improving your car's security can drastically reduce your insurance premium. This means can you not only avoid the headaches caused by vehicle crime, but you can also make some serious savings.
The following steps are cheap, simple, and proven to be effective in reducing car crime:
- Park securely: In an ideal world everyone would have a secure garage where they could safely lock-up their vehicle at night. However, for most motorists off-street parking on a driveway is the only feasible option. In this scenario security can be greatly improved by fitting motion detector lighting to deter would-be criminals. If on-street parking is your only option, try parking in a well-lit area. Most vehicle related crimes happen to cars that are parked outside or away from the owner’s house where lighting is less than adequate.
- Fit an immobiliser: Immobilisers work in a variety of ways, the most common being preventing the ignition, starter motor or fuel pump from working. However, all options safeguard your car from theft. Fitting an immobiliser is the single most cost-effective way to reduce your insurance premium, providing it’s 'Thatcham' or 'Sold Secure' approved and fitted by a member of the Vehicle Systems Installation Board (VSIB).
- Remove temptation: Opportunistic thieves will break into cars to steal absolutely anything, so don't give them the temptation. Electrical items such as smartphones and laptops are a favourite, but bags and clothing are also popular. Keep your car's interior clutter free with any valuables locked-up and out of sight in the boot. Similarly empty your glove box and leave it open to show that you've got nothing to hide. Finally, if you use a Satnav, don't forget to wipe off the circular suction mark from your windscreen, these attract thieves like flies on honey.
- Fit an alarm: If you don’t have a factory-fitted alarm you may find installing one would vastly reduce the cost of your insurance. The market is saturated with alarms detecting everything from a window being broken to your bonnet being opened. Quality varies enormously, so check with your insurer that your alarm is approved and it will earn you the discount.
- Be careful with your keys: With advances in vehicle security over the years; one of the easiest ways for a thief to steal your car is to first get their hands on your keys. According to the British Crime Survey, 7% of all household burglaries involve taking a vehicle. Make sure you don’t fall victim to this by keeping spare keys well hidden. Avoid having your keys ‘fished’ through the letter box by ensuring keys are left on hall tables or hooks. At work, don’t leave your keys on display on your desk, this is just an open invitation for them to be stolen.
- Fit wheel locks: When was the last time you saw a car propped up on bricks? Wheels are easy prey for thieves especially if you have a set of alloys. Locking wheel nuts are an effective deterrent, plus they’re cheap to buy and easy to fit.
- Get your windows etched: Etching is a tried and tested way to frustrate car thieves. With the last seven digits of your Vehicle Identity Number (or registration) etched on to your windows, headlights and mirrors; anyone trying to change your car's identity will really have their work cut out.
- Steering wheel lock: Given that experienced car thieves can remove a steering wheel in less than a minute (and yes, they do carry spares), some people question the effectiveness of steering wheel locks. However, they’re a strong and cost effective way of deterring even the most determined criminal. Handbrake and gearstick locks also provide a similar level of security. Preventing vehicle crime is all about making life more difficult for the criminal.
- Number plate theft: If your number plates are stolen, it’s important to contact the Police as soon as possible. It may seem trivial at the time, but if your number plate is used to change the identity of a similar vehicle to yours, you could start receiving penalty charges for speeding, parking and congestion charges. Not to mention, if the vehicle is used in a crime, you could become the prime suspect!
- Satellite navigation theft: Always take your portable satnav with you when you leave your vehicle, removing the cradle, suction pads and cleaning any marks left on dashboard or windscreen. Not doing so may lead criminals to believe your satnav is hidden in the vehicle.
- Catalytic convertor theft: Since the start of the recession and high prices for platinum, there has been a high increase in the theft of catalytic convertors. Thieves do so to recover the parts of precious metals they contain. 4x4s are much more vulnerable to attack as the converter is higher and easier to access, and due to their bigger engines the convertor contains more precious metals. For greater security you can install a device known as a ‘Cat Clamp’.
- Towing Theft: To minimise your chances of your car being towed by a thief, always leave the car in gear (for manuals) or Park (if automatic). You should also put the emergency park/handbrake on, as well as turn the steering wheel to point the front wheels to the kerb
- Car buying scams: There are many so called “virtual vehicle scams” on the internet that involve fake shipping and car sales, with promises of handling the whole deal and looking after your money…beware! Once you respond and express interest in buying a vehicle that is ‘currently abroad’, you’ll be taken to a fake website for a shipping company that handles all the financial aspects of the purchase. In most cases you’ll never receive the car and always lose your money. Another scam to be aware of is ‘vehicle matching scams’. This involves criminals approaching individuals who’re selling their car and telling them they can match them to a definite buyer. According to the Office of Fair Trading this scam alone equates to over £3 million a year in losses.
Motorbikes / Mopeds
- Always lock your bike and set its alarm (if installed).
- Try to use a designated motorcycle parking place with a stand and security loop.
- Always lock your bike to something secure – at home, fit special attachments such as ground loops to lock your bike to.
- Use a motorbike cover – don’t advertise your bike to criminals!
- Have the motorbike security marked with its Vehicle Identification Number (VIN).
- Check with your insurance company – they may offer insurance discounts for certain security measures.
- When purchasing security devices, make sure they’re either ‘Thatcham’ or ‘Sold Secure’ approved.
- Never leave helmets or other possessions with your bike.
- Try to park in well-lit areas and if possible, where there’s CCTV.
- If you’re buying a second hand bike or parts, be wary of so called ‘bargains’. Have a good look at the registration documents and check the bike’s history with HPI Group Ltd, Carwatch UK Ltd, the AA or the RAC. If it’s too good to be true, it probably is.
- If you ride an off-road bike, ask the DVLA to register its details (frame and engine numbers) on their own and police computers - it’s free!
Where and when?
Unsurprisingly, home office figures for England and Wales show that your car is more likely to be stolen at night. In fact over 50% of vehicles are stolen between the hours of 00:00 and 06:00.
37% of vehicles are stolen from private drives; 29% from the street and 7% from a home garage.
When away from home statistics show that 10% of vehicles are stolen from car parks, whilst 14% are stolen when parked on street.
Over 100,000 vehicles are stolen on average every year but only half are ever recovered.
Keys should be treated in the same way as you treat cash: they are the weakest link in the security chain.
53% people in England and Wales find that their vehicle has disappeared after their home was burgled due to spare keys being found.
Common events leading to car theft…
- Stolen during the night
- Stolen while owners were in the garden
- Stolen from door locks
- Stolen by fishing them out through the letter box.
- Stolen following burglary of the home
- Stolen from the workplace, changing rooms or the gym.
- Taken from bags or pockets
- Stolen through muggings, carjacking or threats
If your car does not have an electronic engine immobiliser fitted as standard, then have a recognised professional fit an approved system. This will disable the ignition, meaning the car will only start if the correct key is use. Just remember to activate the immobiliser every time you leave the car.
Alongside an electronic immobiliser, a visual and physical deterrent it a great way of dissuading criminals. You could try using a mechanical immobiliser in the form of wheel locks, floor-board & pedal locks, gearshift locks, wheel clamps, and armoured collars for your steering columns.
An audio alarm can be a third layer of protection. While car alarms are ignored by most nowadays, they will still attract unwanted attention which may deter the thief and cause them to run off.
Marking the car using methods such as etching the VIN (Vehicle Identification Number) number on the windows make the car less attractive to those looking to strip it and sell it for parts. Tracking systems that monitor the cars location and report it to the police can also be an excellent investment. On more expensive cars, fitting these devices can drastically reduce insurance premiums.
In short, the more layers of protection you add to your vehicle, the less appealing your car will be to criminals.