Thefts of vehicles across Shropshire and Mid Wales have increased after 10 years of decline.
The RAC released figures following a Freedom of Information request which showed that West Mercia Police recorded 368 crimes last year, which is up 26 percent from 291 in 2013.
Chief Inspector Sarah Corteen of West Mercia Police Crime Bureau said: “Vehicle theft is an issue that West Mercia Police takes very seriously and we understand the impact this can have on people’s day to day lives.
“We carry out a number of initiatives to specifically target vehicle crime and are committed to working closely with neighbouring forces to prevent and tackle any such activity in our area.
“We have seen a rise in the number of recorded crimes, however, this is in the main in line with the need to comply with national crime recording standards.”
Reponses from 40 forces across England and Wales show a sharp increase in car theft, with figures reaching 85,688 in 2016 – an increase of 30 percent.
Vehicles Stolen From Driveways
Thieves are swooping in and targeting vehicles on driveways with a number of thefts and attempted thefts taking place across Shropshire over the last couple of months.
Latest reported crimes for the Bridgnorth area saw a spate of vehicle crime; An attempt was made to steal a car from a driveway in Ironbridge Road, Broseley overnight between 30th and 31st October. The dashboard and steering column were damaged in an unsuccessful attempt to start the vehicle.
Between the 28th and 29th September, a vehicle was stolen from a driveway in St Marys Close, Jackfield.
Thieves also targeted a farm shed on Rock Green in Ludlow with a car inside on the same evening.
A van on a driveway in Albrighton was broken into between 26th to 28th September, with power tools and batteries being taken.
Overnight between 20th and 21st October a van in Jockey Fields, Ludlow was raided. A set of keys were taken and a BMW was stolen which was then later recovered in Craven Arms.
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Spate of Thefts from Cars in Shrewsbury
Meanwhile, the latest crime information for the Shrewsbury area, there has been a spate of thefts from cars in the Sundorne area.
An iPod and cash were taken from a car on Chaffinch Way overnight between 1st and 2nd October.
Thieves removed a sat nav and sunglasses from a vehicle in Hallam Drive overnight between Monday 1st and 2nd October.
Two vehicles in Kingfisher Close were raided overnight between 1st-2nd October and two power tools were stolen. Two young males were seen carrying an armful of items in Kestrel Drive around 4.30am. Some items were recovered on a nearby driveway.
Criminals Defeating Security Devices
Modern anti-theft technology such as engine immobilisers and alarms had contributed to the fall of car theft across the country four years ago.
Experts believe that since then, thieves have developed sophisticated techniques to work around the anti-theft measures.
According to data seen (Police data) by RAC Insurance, the number of vehicles stolen in England and Wales has increased by a shocking 30% in just three years. RAC Insurance Director Mark Godfrey said: “We fear thieves are now becoming more and more well equipped with technology capable of defeating car manufacturers’ anti-theft systems. This is bad news for motorists as it has the effect of causing insurance premiums to rise at a time when they are already being pushed up by a variety of factors, not least the recent change to the discount rate for life-changing personal injury compensation claims and the rises in insurance premium tax.”
Steering Lock Sales Soar
Mark Godfrey observed that a result of the rising rate of car crime, vehicle owners are turning to traditional anti-theft devices such as steering wheel locks.
“In addition, anti-theft devices such as steering wheel locks which were popular in the 1980s and early 1990s are starting to make a comeback as they are still a very effective visible deterrent. This is quite ironic as they were replaced a number of years ago by alarms and immobilisers, which until now, offered better theft prevention.
“Telematics – or black box – technology is another potentially useful weapon in the fight against car theft. We have seen several instances where we have been able to track stolen vehicles using RAC Telematics devices and have even helped the police recover vehicles successfully.”
Halfords has seen a huge rise in mechanical security – with sales of steering wheel locks up by 56 percent since the start of July.
Dave Hammond, car security expert at Halfords said:
“Organised gangs have mastered how to get around high-tech security devices, leading to a significant rise in car thefts across the UK. To guard against falling victim to these car thieves, Police are advising drivers to invest in a physical deterrent.
“Classic steel steering locks first became popular in the 1980s and ’90s but remain an extremely effective – and visual – way of deterring thieves, and we’ve recently seen a huge increase in sales as car owners turn to old school solutions.”
Most Vehicle Crime is “Opportunistic”
West Mercia Police say that most vehicle crime happens as a result of a vehicle being left vulnerable or unsecured. This may include the key being left in the ignition, doors and windows being left unlocked or leaving personal belongings on display.
Chief Inspector Sarah Corteen said: “Vehicle crime is often opportunistic and there are a number of steps people can take to make it harder for potential vehicle thieves.”
“In addition to securing your vehicle every time it is left unattended, we continue to educate and advise people about leaving car keys in secure locations within your home and resisting the temptation to leave car engines running unattended when defrosting vehicles in the winter.”
“We also advise people to park in open well-lit and secure areas, keeping your vehicle in a garage if possible.”
How to Avoid Being a Victim
Despite criminals using hi-tech methods to commit the theft of a vehicle, there are still a number of ways drivers can help reduce the chance of it happening.
JT Hughes spoke to Stephen Loveridge, Design Out Crime Officer at Shrewsbury Police Station who offered advice to motorists on how to ensure that their vehicles are kept secure.
“Vehicle crime is always a concern to the police and we are being proactive when dealing with such offences as the impact on the victims is always great. There are simple steps that can be taken to ensure as far as possible that vehicles are kept secure.”
His advice includes:
1. Garage vehicles at home whenever possible.
2. Good lighting always deters and reveals would be offenders.
3. CCTV is always an option to have surveillance over vehicles.
4. Ensure vehicles are always locked and have the keys removed.
5. High-value top of the range vehicles are usually more of a target owing to their value. These vehicles cannot be readily stolen without the key or keyless entry fob entry system.
6. Homes can be targeted just to obtain the key or fob so it is most important that the security of the dwelling is also robust.
7. Keyless entry systems are by RFID and it has been reported that offenders can use a scanner from outside the home to detect the RFID signal from within.
8. There are RFID blocking devices on the market that block out signals from within. Keyless entry fobs can be placed inside a RFID protected pouch or case when not in use.
He added: “Owners of vehicles are asked to be vigilant and to report any concerns to the police via 101 or in the case of emergency 999.”
Beware When De-Icing Car
With winter setting in and the temperatures heading down toward freezing, West Mercia Police warn that drivers should avoid leaving vehicle’s engine running to de-ice in the morning, as this could provide ample opportunity for thieves to take advantage.
West Mercia Police warn that thieves drive around residential areas and target vehicles that have been left unattended outside the home. One person will be dropped off to steal the car and then drive away.
They advise to avoid being an easy target; motorists should clear windscreens with de-icer and a scraper and sit in vehicles while the heater demists the windscreen.
Mark Godfrey added: “Drivers can also take certain steps to reduce the likelihood of their vehicle being stolen, for example parking in well-lit areas, not leaving anything valuable on view inside and, of course, never leaving the keys in the ignition when they’re not in the car, something that tends to happen on cold mornings when de-icing vehicles.”