We’ve seen the movies, with slick car thieves making their getaway with stolen luxury cars. And in London, these fantastic storylines are coming true.
There’s been a string of car thefts targeting high-end car dealers, and many are saying it is part of an organised crime ring. Intruders are taking multiple cars using the key fobs in the early hours of the morning.
This technique not only required knowledge of the dealership such as location of the keys, but also a reasonable amount of planning; they were successful at the Porsche dealership, taking four cars valued at $400,000
Police arrested five suspects a few days later and credited the general public. Lockdown orders mean that people are home more and noticing usual behaviour. The constant flow of information resulted in the arrests.
The first success
Three luxury vehicles and forty keys were stolen on April 27 from Titanium Autos. The offenders broke into the premises, stole the keys, and from there it was a simple act to take the cars. Police have since recovered the vehicles, all in immaculate condition, and with full tanks of petrol. The car yards normally only keep tanks a quarter full, so these cars had been filled and there were future plans for them.
The second success
Offenders accessed the keys and the cars early in the morning of May 2. They broke into the showroom, grabbed the keys, and took off with four Porsche luxury cars. One of these cars has been located.
A failed attempt
Less than ten hours after their Porsche success, the thieves attempted another haul. The Mercedes-Benz showroom footage showed potential thieves arriving at the dealership. However, the security guard arrived, and the suspects tried to run off. However, only three were successful in escaping, as one was tackled by the guard.
Is this a sign of a larger operation?
The manager of Mercedes-Benz, Rob Stockie, suspects it’s part of a large operation that targets luxury vehicles. There is an element of sophistication in disposing of a stolen luxury car, and the volume of thefts is indicative of a supply chain.
The fact that the vehicles Titanium Autos were filled with petrol is a sign that there was much more planned, and a way to fill the vehicles that wouldn’t draw attention to the thieves.
The police have recovered eight stolen cars and more than 175 keys that have been stolen from local dealerships.
What does this mean for car yards?
Steve Rempel, the general manager of Porsche in London, has been in the industry for almost 20 years. And, he hasn’t seen anything like it in his time. He’s used the crime as a reminder to be more careful. Not only of the keys, but also paperwork and who is walking around your yard.
He’s taken the opportunity to increase the security on the lot, and started a CCTV footage-sharing system with other dealers nearby. He’s also hired security guards to monitor the yards at night. While the extra expense in the time of COVID-19, when the business is facing a loss of sales from the lock-down, is difficult, he’s hoping that lifting the lockdown will allow buyers back in his showroom.
Mercedes-Benz has started storing the keyfobs for the cars off- premises at night. This is a policy that the local police have applauded, and many other car yards may follow suit.
Is this due to COVID-19?
World-wide, there has been an increase in car thefts. There are a variety of reasons for this, including people using their cars less, and leaving them sitting in the driveway of their homes, and a loss of employment, and some people needing an income stream.
But for both these commercial thefts and residential thefts, a lot of blame is being aimed at the police. With less police on active duty, patrolling the streets, they simply aren’t as visible as they have been in the past.
Advice for car owners
There are a few things you can do to make sure your car is less of target for thieves.
- Always lock your car doors, even when it’s stored in the driveway
- Invest in immobilisers, such as a steering wheel lock and wheel clamp
- Don’t store anything in the car, especially anything of value
- Get your windows etched with your rego number
- Install a car alarm, or at the very least, a light on the dash that looks like an alarm
- If you have keyless entry to your car, consider buying a Faraday pouch to store it in so thieves can’t exploit a known security weakness to break in using your own remote
- Make sure you have good car insurance (visit AMI Insurance for more info). This doesn’t deter thieves, but it will save future financial distress.