Tackling 'Keyless' Car Thefts In Wimbledon

Police launch awareness campaign urging owners to take extra precautions

Police have a launched an awareness campaign to tackle the incidence of 'keyless' vehicle thefts.

The capital-wide campaign saw officers out in Wimbledon (right) to promote crime prevention messages to local drivers.

The Met says there were 24,062 vehicles of all kinds were stolen across London in 2014, of which 6,283 were keyless thefts - that is 26% of all vehicle thefts. Forty-two per cent of these were cars and vans.

Ford Transit and Mercedes Sprinter vans, Ford Fiestas, and some BMW and Land Rover models accounted for 70% of all vehicles stolen without their keys in 2014.

There were 93 keyless vehicle thefts in Merton in 2014, and 178 in neighbouring Wandsworth.

Thieves use a device which bypasses the vehicle's electronic information as the owner locks it, or they break into the vehicle and connect a device to the OBD port, downloading the vehicle's information onto a blank key in a matter of seconds. The new key is then compatible with the vehicle, so it disables the alarm and the vehicle can simply be driven away.

Police say that this crme peaks between 10pm and 4am, when it is dark, Sundays to Thursdays. The majority of thefts are by organised gangs using key-programming devices to create duplicate keys for vehicles.The disappearance of a vehicle overnight is bewildering for owners who are convinced they have properly locked their car.

Criminals drive the vehicles into the home counties, where most are stripped down into their component parts and then shipped abroad. They are sold on as far afield as Africa, where particular types of vehicle are in high demand.

Merton Chief Inspector Phil Palmer said: "Although Merton has fewer keyless vehicle thefts than most other boroughs, the fact that only last week we arrested a suspect with a stolen top of range 4x4 car shows we need to remain alert. We're on patrol across Merton, raising awareness with local drivers and deterring offenders."

In Wimbledon, PCSOs Nikki Cleeter (Trinity SNT) and Gabriella Di Maria (Hillside SNT) decided to join forces and promote the positive crime prevention message to local drivers, including a mum who had just parked to go shopping, and locked her car using a keyless fob.

Local resident Fiona Pearce said: "I never knew about this - thanks for telling us", and took some leaflets with her. Part of her shopping trip was now set to include buying a steering wheel lock!"

PCSO Nikki Cleeter said: "It's great to let people know about these offences with a positive message, and talk about a few simple steps that could frustrate a car thief and protect your valuable property."

February 6, 2015

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PCSOs Nikki Cleater and Gabriella Di Maria with driver Fiona Pearce