Imagine the heartbreak, not to mention inconvenience, of returning to the location where you parked your car only to find it has been stolen.
It’s a common enough problem throughout the UK, but there are some simple preventative steps to help deter would-be thieves – trackers, for example are becoming more and more popular providing the added security to owners and putting a stop to any unwanted attention.
The device is tucked away within the vehicle by a professional installer and then the car is monitored by a tracking logistics company, so if it moves without your permission (via a simple driver detection smartcard) then you will be contacted immediately and the police can be alerted as to the vehicle’s whereabouts.
Founded in 2005, SmartTrack is one of the leading tracker-fitting companies in the UK. It is based in Leicestershire and employs more than 500 approved installers and suppliers nationwide.
The company is recognised by leading insurance organisation Thatcham Research and must adhere to its strict guidelines.
A SmarTrack spokesman explained: “In order to maintain Thatcham approval, all devices must be fitted by a Thatcham approved and SmarTrack authorised installation technician. The technician will take time to discreetly install each device in varying locations to minimise the risk of a device being found and subsequently removed in the event of a theft.”
There are various types of trackers available and different subscription packages to suit as the company explained: “Depending on the varying complexities of vehicles and the level of security requested by the client, installations can take at minimum one hour to complete and some upwards of four hours. The cost for installation is always included in retail pricing of these devices.
“All SmarTrack devices come with a free iOS/Android mobile app which can show your vehicle’s current location, battery voltage and ignition status. The app can also show vehicle journey history, Geofences push notification alerts, alert history and driver performance analytics. If you have multiple devices fitted, the app can display all of your vehicles on one login. Each Thatcham Approved device is monitored round the clock.”
A Thatcham Approved, SmarTrack device starts from £299 including one-year monitoring subscription and it’s not just cars that can be protected. There are trackers to protect caravans, farm machinery and all manner of vehicles.
The company that monitors the SmarTrack system 24/7 is Global Telemetrics and this year alone, it has been responsible for recovering millions of pounds worth of vehicles via the police and repatriation companies throughout the UK, Europe and globally.
A spokesman said: “Recoveries have been reported from across the country, including high-value vehicles such as a Lamborghini Urus, Bentley Bentayga, Mercedes AMG G53, BMW i8 and BMW M3.
“But It’s not just high-value vehicles that were recovered. Protecting their investment remains important for a range of owners, particularly those that use a van for professional purposes. Amongst the lowest value recoveries during the period January to June 2021 were a Ford Transit, Mercedes Sprinter, Ford Fiesta ST-2, Volvo Excavator and an Abarth 595.”
Theft methods continue to make for grim reading too as Global Telemetrics report that keyless entry, hijacking and burglary remain the three main approaches employed by would-be thieves.
But there are happy endings in many cases as a spokesman explained: “Living in a gated community did not deter thieves stealing a Range Rover Sport. Having pried the gates open and tackled the steering lock which the customer had also installed, these thieves were outsmarted by the tracking device. An in-depth discovery session failed to locate the device, and shortly after making off with the car following a key re-programme, the Global Telemetrics team were able to home in on its new location and reunite the owner with their beloved vehicle.
“And a missing Lamborghini Urus belonging to a finance company was tracked down thanks to the installation of a tracker device by a previous owner. A scan of the tracker location and the vehicle was quickly back in the hands of the insurance company.”
According to one of the country’s leading car insurance providers – Admiral Insurance – car thefts have dropped slightly during the pandemic, but are still cause for serious concern.
Mark Goodyear, Head of Accidental Damage and Loss Claims, said: “The number of claims for stolen cars fell by seven per cent in the second half of 2020 compared with the first six months, probably because people were at home much more and had their cars parked outside their homes. However, claims for thefts from cars increased by nearly 14 per cent during that period.
And it’s fairly good news for the start of this year with car theft claims dropping by six per cent in the first six months compared to the last six months of 2020.
In the last year the top five makes and models targeted by car thieves were the Ford Fiesta, Land Rover Discovery, VW Golf, Ford Focus and Mercedes C Class. These figures are based on claims made via Admiral Insurance.
The top five postcode areas for stolen cars were Birmingham, North London, South West London, Manchester and Romford.
And London featured heavily in the list of the worst areas for thefts from cars with the top five being South West London, North London, South East London, East London and West London. Once again, these figures only apply to people who have registered a claim through Admiral Insurance.
Another issue that the insurance company is keen to highlight is the number of relay or keyless car thefts.
Mr Goodyear said: “This is where two criminals work together to break into cars which have keyless entry systems. They use equipment to capture signals emitted by certain keys which are used to start vehicles.
“One thief stands by the car with a transmitter (also known as a relay box), while the other stands by the house with another, which picks up the signal from the key which is usually kept near the front door on a table or hook.
“This is then relayed to the other transmitter by the vehicle, causing it to think the key is in close proximity and prompting it to open. Thieves can then drive the vehicle away and quickly replace the locks and entry devices”, he added.
Often vehicles that fall victim to this kind of theft are unrecovered and Admiral advises the best way to prevent it happening is to ensure car keys are kept as far from the front door as possible so the signal can’t be picked up. It might even be worth investing in a metal box to store your keys overnight as this may block the signal being detected.
Finally, the company sent out some general advice to help prevent car thefts or thefts from cars.
The top tips are: Never leave anything on show in an unattended car – opportunistic thieves will take anything. Try to park your car in a well-lit and busy area and lock all windows and doors, not forgetting the sunroof, when leaving the car. If you don’t have one already, get an alarm and immobiliser fitted and avoid leaving car keys near to front or back doors as thieves can ‘fish’ for them through letterboxes and open windows.
And if further proof is needed then the figures speak for themselves. Over the past 12 months, Global Telemetrics has recovered in excess of £13,000,000 worth of stolen assets and boasts a 97 per cent successful recovery rate of vehicles ranging in value from £10,000 to £1.2 million.