Nationally, the theft of expensive vehicles, notably, BMW`s, Audi`s and Mercedes etc, is an on-going crime, although it is not something that occurs often in any area, so people are not too aware of it.
Certain crime types, such as burglaries, or thefts from shed and other out-buildings, are committed by local criminals in the main. These series will happen from time to time and the communities that are targeted become aware, since victims will live nearby to one another and the sharing of information on social media spreads the word.
In contrast, the theft of expensive vehicles happens nationally and from time to time, one or two vehicles will be stolen from any area before the criminals move on to another area, therefore this series is not so obvious and there is a general lack of awareness about it.
Vehicle manufactures continue to develop technology to prevent theft, or the tracking of vehicles which do get stolen, but unfortunately, organised criminals will access technology to overcome security devices, or they will simply steal the keys.
I mention organised criminals, because this is exactly what this type of crime is – organised crime.
There are groups of people who will operate together to steal who will have links to other`s who will dispose of or export the stolen vehicle and have further links to purchasers, often abroad.
A vehicle which is stolen will either be dismantled for parts or sold on very quickly, so crime prevention is the first consideration to make it hard for the vehicle to be removed in the first place. Next is to ensure that the technology built-in to the vehicle is activated so that a stolen vehicle can be tracked.
Many families have two vehicles, therefore parking the less desirable one behind the expensive one is an easy, no cost solution. Gravel driveways and security lighting is another relatively inexpensive deterrent.
The increasing use of private CCTV has helped too, where movement sensors in the camera will send an alert to your mobile phone. This may give you the time required to call out to deter thieves, but from a safety point of view, it is not recommended that you leave your home, so just dial 999 and provide as much information as possible.
Many modern vehicles have a SIM card fitted which will track the vehicle, but again, this is not always fitted and the location within the vehicle is often known by the crime groups who will removed it. However, it is a good tip to contact your manufacturer and ask what is fitted and check also with your insurance company that the cover you have has activated the tracker.
I mention this last point because last year I dealt with two victims who had tracking devices in their vehicles, but these were only activated when a certain level of insurance had been paid for.
I will not write, or advise further about insurance and trackers, because there are so many different models of vehicles and insurance policies, however, suffice to say it is best to ask your vehicle supplier and insurance company about this.
In most cases, the number plates are removed straight after a vehicle is stolen and a different one fitted to avoid detection through Automatic Numberplate Recognition (ANPR) cameras which are along many main roads.
One of the first lines of enquiry the police will make on receiving a theft report is to check ANPR cameras and no matches are made, which will confirm this practice by criminals.
Earlier in this article I mentioned the theft of keys too and over the last 4 months, I have been aware of two expensive vehicles being stolen when the house was broken into and the keys taken, so burglary crime prevention advice is equally important.
Many keys will have built-in security devices, but again, there is technology to overcome this, so as well as making sure that your home is protected, do consider leaving your keys in less obvious places and out of sight.
The relatively few thefts that occur in any one area mean that this type of crime has little focus in people`s minds. The fact that the well organised operation by criminals means that stolen vehicles are disposed of or sold almost immediately means that the police have little opportunity to investigate crimes of this type, or recover the vehicle, which is why prevention is the most important aspect to concentrate on.
Something else to consider is that all organised crime will fund other illegal activity and it is often the case that there will be vulnerable and exploited people who are victims of the crimes behind the organised operations, so by doing your part in prevention will help in a small way to protect these victims.
For crime prevention advice, please visit our website where there is a lot of relevant and useful information (https://www.hampshire.police.uk/cp/crime-prevention/)
PC 1860 Mark Ranola.
Yateley Police Station.