Five vehicles a day are being stolen across Lancashire, a Post investigation has found.
Around 2,000 cars are stolen every year in the county and our research has found vehicle crime is steadily on the rise.
Last year more than 2,100 vehicles were stolen and 1,659 have already been taken this year – hundreds more than five years ago.
Stewart Melling, who had a £26,000 Range Rover stolen from his Leyland garage D Mellings and Sons in March, said criminals are increasingly using new technology to target vehicles.
The head mechanic saw two men break into his car on CCTV before police phoned him to say they’d located the vehicle - in a the back of a lorry in Dover ready to be shipped to mainland Europe. After a lengthy battle Stewart now has the car back but says he’s seeing more and more car crime in the county.
“It’s definitely on the rise,” he said. “Criminals have technology now which means they can get into the car without damaging it.
“It can be done very quickly as well and we’re seeing lots of newer cars stolen because keyless entry makes them more vulnerable. They can re-program keys to open cars and drive off with them.”
Stats show high end cars are increasingly targets, with criminals using advanced technology to prey on keyless entry to steal expensive motors.
And Chorley-based vehicle security and tracking experts, Scorpion Automotive, says valuable cars are becoming more vulnerable.
“Criminals have become increasingly sophisticated,” said Carl James, head of marketing. “Many vehicles are being stolen or broken into by thieves using electronic hacking equipment.
With this type of crime, it’s modern vehicles equipped with on-board computers that are most at risk.
“There are countless examples of how all types and values of vehicles can be stolen in less than 30 seconds without the need for the owner’s keys.”
A Lancashire Police spokesman said: “It only takes a few seconds to steal from a vehicle and many of these crimes are from unlocked vehicles so always make sure you lock it.
“Consider steering locks, alarms, tracking devices and immobilisers and if you have them, use them.”
Vehicles with on-board computers at risk
Vehicle security company Scorpion Automotive says its service is becoming more popular since the rise in vehicle crime.
The Chorley-based company specialises in vehicle security and tracking systems and work with many celebrities to protect their million pound motors.
Film and TV stars as well as a host of football players and managers use the service to keep their prized cars safe.
Scorpion head of marketing Carl James said: “With this type of crime, it’s modern vehicles equipped with on-board computers that are most at risk.
“There are a number of ways that thieves can access and steal modern vehicles. Smart key systems can be easily tricked into assuming the owner’s key is present.
“Using a low-cost and easy to purchase device, thieves can connect to the vehicle’s on board diagnostics (OBD) port and using a blank key, re-program it and simply drive away.
“Whilst all modern vehicles have a manufacturer immobiliser unit as standard, it can also be overridden and reprogrammed if it’s accessed directly. Alternatively thieves can tap into known vulnerable wiring points within the vehicle.”
Carl says it isn’t just owners of expensive cars which use the service and admits vehicle crime is on the rise.
“We track vehicles valued from £2,000 to £1m and more,” he said. Our business customers range from single van sole traders to operators of multi-million pound fleets of HGVs and delivery vans.
“We’ve a lot of what we call ‘communities’ too...such as motorcycle and scooter enthusiasts, classic car and 80’s hot hatch fanatics, holidaymakers with anything from a 50 year old campervan to a £100,000 luxury motorhome.
“Vehicle thefts are up 16 per cent, thefts from vehicles are up four per cent and incidents of vehicle interference were up 12 per cent.