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London has a real problem with thieves targeting keyless cars

Matt Brian, @m4tt
02.03.15
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If you own a new car, there's a good chance that it features some form of keyless security. Whether it helps unlock your car or lets you start it with the push of a button, it makes driving all that bit easier. That's unless it's the reason your car gets stolen. Police forces all over the UK are reporting a rise in keyless car thefts, but a new report released by the Metropolitan Police today suggests that it now accounts for over a quarter of all vehicle thefts across London.

According to the Met, 6,283 cars and vans were pinched in the capital last year by crooks without the owners' key. That works out at 17 vehicles a day. Gangs reportedly use devices (which are originally intended for mechanics) that "bypass the vehicle's electronic information as the owner locks it" or are physically breaking into cars to gain access to their OBD port, which then allows them to download the car's information and imprint it on a new key in no time at all.

Ford Transit and Mercedes Sprinter vans were the most-targeted commercial vehicles, with Ford Fiestas and some luxury BMW and Land Rover models also high on criminals' hit lists. Those models alone accounted for 70 percent of all cars and vans stolen without the original key -- a worrying statistic for some car makers. Redbridge, Newham and Havering were the most popular keyless hotspots.

Thieves are targeting vehicles in London and then driving them to surrounding counties where they can be stripped down and shipped abroad to places like Africa. To combat the rise in high-tech crime, police have launched Operation Endeavour, a new initiative that will see officers begin carrying out roadside checks and performing covert operations to identify and prosecute the people behind the raids.

The Met recommends that Londoners "protect their vehicle like they would their home," which equates to adding more security measures to a keyless car. If you own one, then you should apparently look to invest in a steering lock, an OBD lock, park your car in well lit areas (crimes peak between 10pm and 4am between Sundays and Thursdays) and consider getting a tracker in case it's stolen. Not much then.

The police aims to reduce keyless crime by up to 20 percent by 2016. It's already working with car manufacturers, who want laws passed to stop tools reserved for workshops and car repairs from getting into criminals' hands. Given how fast technology evolves, it's a tough ask, but you might be able to deter thieves with a few additions of your own.

[Image credit: Audizine]

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