Frosting Gift For Car Criminals

Christmas is coming early for many car thieves who are using the cold weather to steal cars, according to the RAC Foundation. In the last few weeks there has been an increase in the number of "frosting" thefts whereby opportunist "Jack Frost" thieves target cars where the owners have left the engine running to defrost the windscreen.

There were several cases of this reported in Scotland last week. Warwickshire and Leicestershire police have warned "don’t let jack frost steal your car" and other cases have been reported in Manchester, Lancashire and the west Midlands.

Modern cars are now difficult to steal due to improved locks, alarms and immobilisers so the car criminal is targeting the weakest link in the security chain, which is the car keys or driver. Other auto criminals turn their attention to older cars - with the most frequent target being small saloon cars and cars over 12 years old.

The recent House of Commons Public Accounts Committee report estimates that there may be as many as 10,000 car jacking incidents a year although the Home Office could not confirm this as they do not keep separate figures. The report also states that approximately 20% of car crime takes place in car parks, but only 1,350 of the estimated 20,000 car parks in England and Wales have joined the police Safer Car Parking Scheme.

At this time of year motorists often have valuable Christmas presents in the car, which make rich pickings for the smash and grab merchants.

Edmund King, executive director of the RAC Foundation.

"When out Christmas shopping the most prudent advice is to park in a well lit, security patrolled area and ensure that all goods are firmly locked in the boot or covered in an estate.

" Your car keys are the weakest link in the car security chain so never give the car criminal the chance to steal your keys. Never leave your keys in the car when filling up with petrol or when defrosting the car. Make it more difficult for auto criminals this Christmas."

The RAC Foundation Car Crime fact file identifies other crimes devised by devious thieves including:

Frosting

For years opportunist thieves have been seizing the opportunity to steal cars whenever they are left unattended for a few minutes - whether from petrol station forecourts, outside school or shops. Now they have caught onto the idea of nipping in while motorists leave their engines running while the car defrosts on icy mornings.

As the driver pops into the house for a quick cup of tea the thief makes off with an early Christmas present. The moral of this one is obvious. Never leave keys in the ignition and doors unlocked in an unattended car- even for a couple of minutes and even if it is sitting on your own driveway.

Sneaking

Ignition keys left hanging on a hook or sitting on a table beside a door are an easy target for opportunist criminals. This is an increasingly popular technique employed by burglars who now believe that it is easier to break into the house or help themselves to the car keys when the house door is open than to run the gauntlet of sophisticated security devices fitted to many up-market vehicles. And while they are in the home, they may as well help themselves to as much booty as they can fit into their waiting boot.

Hooking

A deviation on the above involving the use of a long piece of wire with a hook attached. This can be fed through the letterbox to retrieve car keys from nearby hooks and tables, before driving off effortlessly without causing undue notice by neighbours. Always ensure that your keys are not easily visible or accessible from doors and windows-not even through the letterbox.

Jacking

The disturbing custom where thieves lie in wait for a car owner and remove his ignition keys by force before driving away the vehicle. Another variation appears to be to pounce on unsuspecting motorists stopped at traffic lights or junctions, forcibly evicting them from their cars before driving off at high speed. Other thieves smash and grab at traffic lights and run off with handbags and laptops.

Tips on how to avoid this nasty situation include always parking in a well-lit, populated area or a car park with CCTV coverage and keeping vehicle doors locked while driving in urban areas. Leave a space from the car in front when stopped in traffic and be vigilant. Hide bags and valuables in the boot or under the seat.

Gifting

The auto criminal targets cars loaded with Christmas presents normally in car parks. They then smash the window and grab any gifts to hand.

RAC Foundation crime fact file also shows:

  • Only 6% of thefts from vehicles and 13% of thefts of vehicles were resolved in 2003-4.
  • Theft of and from vehicles was in excess of 2 million in 2003-4.
  • 1.4 vehicles were vandalised in 2003-4
  • Car crime has fallen continuously since 1997

The league table for thefts of and from vehicles per 1,000 population in 2003/04 shows that the worst police force areas are Nottinghamshire, West Yorkshire, Humberside, Greater Manchester and Cleveland.

The best areas were Dyfed-Powys, Cumbria, Suffolk, Wiltshire and Surrey.

21 December 2005 Staff
 
 

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