Car Crime And You - The RMIF Guide To Keeping Your Car Safe

The fear of car crime is unfortunately an ever-present part of life for motorists. Sometimes you should listen to that little voice telling you to go back to the car, because car crime is a very real problem.

However, according to the figures collected for the British Crime Survey, vehicle-related thefts fell by eight per cent in 2005/6, and by three per cent according to recorded crime.

This is no reason for motorists to drop their guard though.

Mike Owen, head of technical operations for the Retail Motor Industry Federation (RMIF) commented:  ‘Any fall in the rate of car crime is good news, but motorists must not become complacent.’

According to Owen, security features help drivers to protect their vehicles: ‘In the last few years, vehicle manufacturers have begun to include security features as standard. Electronic central locking, alarms, and immobilizers are now commonplace in newer cars. The security element should not be overlooked when selecting a vehicle to purchase’

Useful security measures include:

  • immobiliser, to prevent the car from starting
  • alarm; make sure any potential thief knows your vehicle has one by displaying a sticker
  • locking wheel nuts avoid the wheels being stolen
  • windows, windscreens and headlamps etched with registration number or the digits of Vehicle Identification Number (VIN)
  • Mark all car equipment with VIN number
  • security labels and marking items in the car with your post-code, using a special property marking pen, to help police return your property if it becomes lost or stolen
  • security-coded, removable radio
  • tracking device
Perfect Parking

According to Owen, even with every possible anti-theft device fitted, and all valuables stowed away, a car can still be at risk if the driver parks in the wrong place: ‘When we park our cars, we assume they will be there when we get back. Unfortunately, for some drivers, this is not always the case. If you own a garage, make the most of it. Park your vehicle in it and lock it, rather than leaving it on the street. If not, park in a well-lit, open place, not one hidden from view or with obvious escape routes.’

‘Drivers can avoid becoming victims of car crime in other ways as well,’ said Owen. ‘Even a few moments thought could make a difference.’

 Ideas for trying to avoid crime include:

  • remove all goods from display or take them with you: remember, a thief will decide what is valuable or not. This includes obvious items such as cash/chequebooks/credit cards, mobile phones, cameras, handbags, briefcases, but also less obvious ones such as CDs, sports gear, vehicle documentation etc
  • always lock car doors and boot, and wind up the windows and sun-roof
  • retract your ariel to stop it being vandalized
  • look after your car keys, and know where they are at all times
  • always remove your keys when leaving your vehicle

There are measures that motorists can take to try and prevent car crime. Owen said:  ‘Motorists that want to try to prevent car crime in their area should get in touch with organisations such as Neighbourhood Watch. On a more basic level, you can be a good neighbour by keeping an eye on neighbours’ cars as well as your own, reporting anything suspicious to the police.’

Drivers need to be vigilant in car parks too. Owen commented: ‘Motorists should avoid badly-lit car parks. Instead, use a car park that has been awarded Secured Car Park* status.’

Stolen Cars

There is another side to car crime. It is possible to accidentally buy a stolen car. Owen said: ‘Car crime does not just affect the victim of a car theft. Once a car is stolen, any number of things could happen. One possibility is that it could resurface and be sold on without the buyer even realising that the car was once stolen.

There are a number of things motorists should watch out for when looking into buying a car. If any of these things happen, reconsider your position:’

  • if they ask you which car you are interested in, as they may actually be traders posing as private sellers
  • if the seller specifies a time to call a certain number that may be a mobile or a phone box; they may also put the same number in a few adverts
  • if the seller insists on bringing the car to you instead of you going to them
  • if the car’s engine, milometer, and VIN numbers show signs of being tampered with
  • if the general standard of the car’s interior does not match the mileage
  • if the documentation - MOT certificates and registration documents, including the V5C registration document - do not have the relevant watermarks, or  match up with the car’s numbers, or include the name of the seller

‘This could be more than just a clerical inconvenience,’ Owen commented: ‘Someone that buys a stolen car could eventually find out that they do not own the car at all, and they could lose a lot of money as a result.’

There are a number of ways to avoid buying a stolen car. The history of the vehicle can be checked, for a small fee. Find out more at or

 The safest way to buy a used car is from a reputable garage, such as a member of the RMI. Owen explains: ‘Businesses that belong to the RMIF are bound by the conditions of their membership to provide a good service to their customers.’

‘When having a service or any form of work carried out on your car use a reputable garage, be it the dealer who sold you the car or, a local independent garage. If the supplying garage is too far away for such jobs, a local RMIF member would be happy to support you with service.

 ‘A member will be able to advise you on the type of service you need, and will be able to point out potential problem areas before they arise, or become serious. In fact, whether you want to buy or sell a new or used car or motorcycle, service or repair your existing vehicle, find an auction house, or a cherished number plate dealer, the RMIF will be able to help you.

‘If you have a complaint against an RMIF member garage, the RMI’s National Conciliation Service should be able to help you get redress, if the problem cannot be solved in direct consultation with that member.’

To find a garage that is a member of the RMIF, visit and use the ‘Find a Service’ function.

You will also find details of RMIF members that sell new and used cars or motorcycles, provide vehicle servicing and repair, run vehicle auctions, sell petrol, and deal in cherished number plates.

Owen concludes: ‘With a little thought motorists can help themselves. If they are successful, they could save themselves money and heartache, and help push car crime even further down. It sounds like a good idea to me.’

7 July 2007 Staff

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