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Vehicle crime is one of the largest single type of crime being committed to date - one of the reasons why the government has set a target of a 30% reduction by the year 2003.

Is your car at risk?

Theft of motor vehicles and theft from parked vehicles is one of the highest crimes nationally. Local vehicle crime follows the national findings (source: British Crime Survey 2001) :-

• The risk of becoming the victim of vehicle related theft is lower in rural areas (7.9%) compared to non-rural areas (12.6%).

• Three quarters of incidents took place during the evening or at night, with 37% occurring between midnight and 6am.

• The main locations for the offences were in the street by their home. 17% occurred in public car parks. (BCS 2000)

• The most commonly stolen items from vehicles were car parts (37%) and car radios (24%) but an increase in the number of tools, mobile phones and laptop computers reflect the increased availability of these items.

Due to motor manufacturers adding security features to vehicles at the design stage the number of vehicles stolen has steadily declined over the last few years. The majority of stolen vehicles fall into the 4-7 year old group. Theft of property from vehicles continues to represent the bulk of autocrime committed in the UK.

New Car Security Rating

The insurance industry, working with the Motor Insurance Repair Research Centre at Thatcham, have now produced a rating system which indicates how well a particular model will resist being broken into and stolen. It gives a star rating on a scale of 1-5 for two criterior, resistance to being stolen and having items stolen from it.

It is hoped that this will enable motorists to assess a vehicles security rating when considering a purchase and also further encourage manufacturers to work towards improving their models rating. Access to the listing is available via the Vehicle Security National Helpline on 0870 5502006 or via http://www.ncsr.co.uk/

Window etching - a simple deterrent.

Have the vehicle registration number etched into all your windows, especially the front and rear screens...its not unusual to have those windows removed from a parked vehicle, they'll nearly always pass yours by and look elsewhere.

I say nearly always as an unsuccessful attempt by a thief in the Reading area was slowly rebuilding his car from stolen parts, which included an etched windscreen! Naturally when he gave the excuse that he'd got it from a car boot sale he wasn't believed!

KEEP property OUT of sight!

The most important message in reducing a theft from a vehicle is to keep all property out of sight put it in the boot or in the case of an item like a laptop, take it with you.

Most vehicles attacked are parked in a pub or hotel car park for a relatively short time or in railway station car parks where the offenders know the owners are not likely to return for some time. In Motorway Service areas arrested offenders have told police how they have watched for businessmen placing their laptops in the boot. The majority of vehicles attacked had a laptop, mobile phone or briefcase left on the seat or footwell. It sounds a simple message but it still needs spreading....please pass on this warning, particularly among business colleagues.

If you have a modern radio with detachable facia, remove it if the car is left out in a vulnerable parking area. do not put it in the dashboard that is the first place the offender will look. Never leave vehicle documents, cheque or credit cards in the dashboard either.

Locks and Alarms...

If you have an alarm system, preferably with an engine immobiliser, Don't forget to set it! and Lock your car! I won't say anything more on such an obvious point...but you will be surprised how many drivers don't!

Make sure you bring to the attention of any would be thief that the vehicle is alarmed, most have deterrent flashing neon lights or a window sticker. Think of it logically, if the thief looks at your car, can't see anything to attract him (car thieves are nearly exclusively male!), is alerted to the fact it is alarmed, would it be worth the risk? It would be easier to look at the next car and so on until he comes across one where he can see whats inside, it becomes more worthwhile for him and very quickly either the window is smashed or a door forced open by a screwdriver, or similar, directly into the lock, or into the skin just below it. It is highly effective and a well used technique.

If you haven't got an alarm on your vehicle you should get one fitted, particularly if you have to regularly park in the street, they are not too expensive for a basic model. Anything less would be a compromise in favour of the offender. Bear in mind the one which requires a voltage drop to trigger it, ie door being opened and interior light comes on, will not stop the 'smash & grab' offender who reaches through the broken window. Aim for one which detects movement within the vehicle. Your vehicle being parked on your driveway is as much a target as one on the street. On occasions owners asleep in a bedroom above the driveway, with the window open, had not heard an attack on their car.

Locking nuts are a relatively small price to pay to secure valuable wheels, especially expensive alloy models. Cars can often be stolen, driven to a remote area just to take the wheels. You can guarantee the car will be left on its hubs causing further damage on recovery!

Locking petrol caps are cheap and effective, and with the high cost of UK fuel this is a growing occurrence!

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