2013 marks the 20th year TRACKER has been recovering stolen vehicles, so this month I thought I would take a look at the ways car crime has changed in that time.
A lot has changed since 1993 – not only in UK culture and politics, car criminals were completely different, too. 1993 was the high watermark for car crime in the UK, with almost 25 per cent of all crimes linked to motor vehicles, costing the insurance industry around £600m per year.
But this high level of crime is misleading – we have to remember this was the era of the ‘joy rider’. Car theft was almost an extension of antisocial behaviour, with the likely culprit being a male between 14 and 17 stealing the vehicle for a quick thrill. ‘Hot hatches’ such as the Sierra Cosworth and Golf GTI were the rage and attracted boy racers with a taste for speed as well as owners who might get their car back but often it would be badly damaged by the activities of those who had taken them.
In 1993, crime prevention advice was limited by available technology. It was possible to break into even the latest model by slipping a piece of plastic or a metal coat hanger inside the door to release the lock. And this was often down to lack of appetite for security in vehicle owners. Quite simply, security did not sell cars but sunroofs and updated radios did.
If we move forward to today, dramatic changes have occurred. Police strategy has evolved to tackle vehicle crime and modern manufacturers have made security a priority, with central locking, electric windows and modern engine management making vehicles harder to steal.
However, the car criminal has also moved with the times, utilising the same advanced technology intended to defeat them. Rather than a screwdriver or coat hanger, today’s criminal is likely to have electronic means of defeating inbuilt security systems, sometimes even rewriting the car’s own computer code, using computer hardware to plug into the vehicle’s own electronics and remove the manufacturer’s security systems.
Sadly, we have also seen that if criminals don’t have the technological know-how, they either steal the car’s keys, often from the owner’s home, or conduct street robbery or carjacking.
And the people behind today’s high tech or violent thefts are no longer interested in joy riding. In 2013 it is all about profit, with cars often shipped to eastern European destinations. Vehicles are broken up for parts, to feed emerging countries who do not have sophisticated vehicle aftercare networks in place.
Crime today is the realm of OCGs, organised criminal groups. So protection is crucial. There is a less than 50 per cent chance that a stolen car will ever be recovered. All this demonstrates the need to use all the technology we can to protect assets. A TRACKER system is one of the most infallible ways of protecting a vehicle.