Vehicle crime is a hot topic here at Walsall Police at the moment, mainly because we’ve seen an increase in vehicle-related crime in many areas of the borough and are focusing a lot of attention on reducing it. To achieve this we’re concentrating on two approaches: firstly, catch the people who are doing it and secondly, advise vehicle owners on how they can avoid becoming a victim. Which is where this blog comes in.
Vehicle-related crime can be split into two main categories; theft from and theft of. Let’s look at theft from vehicles first. In general this can be split into two areas, the theft of items from within the vehicle, and the theft of parts from the vehicle, mainly number plates.
The theft of items from within the vehicle is something that can be prevented by simply removing said items! Rather than leaving things on show or even in the glove compartment, take them with you if you can. If you can’t, leave them out of sight in the boot. It isn’t, as they say, rocket science. Even something with little or no value, a coat or some loose change, will tempt the thief. £1 may not be much to you, but to a drug addict desperate to buy their next fix, the pound or so in your centre console is a fortune. The next step you can take is to ensure your vehicle is locked. You’d be surprised at just how many cars are left unlocked, presenting an easy target to the thieves, which is why West Midlands Police have launched the ‘Check You Fob Has Done It’s Job’ campaign. Here’s just a few recent examples of thefts from unlocked vehicles in Walsall:
2 October – Pelsall – overnight – sat nav taken from glove box.
26/10 – Bloxwich – tablet computer taken from a car left unattended for a few minutes.
26/10 – Birchills – overnight – sat nav taken.
27 October – Leamore – evening – two tablet computers and a mobile phone taken. They’d been left under a coat on the back seat.
27 October – Willenhall – overnight – digital camera and passport stolen.
The message of the WMP ‘fob’ campaign is ‘click it, check it’. In other words don’t assume that your car is properly locked before you walk away, physically check by trying your door handles. I’m old enough to remember the days before central locking when we had to do that and didn’t consider it a hardship! Central locking is great but can go wrong for several reasons, perhaps because a door isn’t closed properly, or one of the locks is faulty, so get in the habit of not relying on it. In relation to the large number of vehicles parked around Walsall every day, the number of vehicle crimes committed is very small – just a handful in fact – but thieves will roam the streets, especially at night, trying vehicle door handles, as captured on CCTV. If they try 100 and get just one victim, that’s one too many.
Continuing with the ‘theft from’ theme, the theft of number plates is disturbingly common. Number plates are often used in crime and can be expensive to replace, however there is an easy step you can take: secure your ‘plates with clutch or one-way screws. These have part of the head missing so they can be screwed in but not out. In fact we’ve made things really easy for you by teaming up with Halfords Autocentres who will supply and fit the screws for free! To secure your plates simply download and print out the voucher (below) and make an appointment at Halfords’ Walsall Branch. If you can’t print out the voucher give me a call and I’ll pop one in the post to you.
Moving on to the theft of vehicles, whilst it’s true that vehicles have become more difficult to steal with the introduction of more sophisticated electronic security, a disturbing trend recently has been how crooks are managing to bypass such security, as highlighted recently by the BBC. I won’t go in to detail here as you can read the BBC article, suffice to say that in recent months a number of high-value vehicles have been stolen in Walsall by ‘unknown means’, where the owner is still in possession of all sets of keys and there are no signs of forced entry, e.g. broken glass. Apparently, whilst motor manufacturers are working on remedies, this trend is spreading to lower-value cars and commercial vehicles.
There is something you can do to stop your pride and joy being taken however. An obvious solution is to garage the vehicle, especially overnight, if it’s possible. If this isn’t possible then think about physical security, either fitted to the vehicle (e.g. wheel clamp, steering wheel lock), or in the area where it’s parked, e.g. strong gates or collapsible bollards. Also think about aftermarket electronic security devices and/or having a tracker fitted. The West Midlands Police Safer Motors website gives all sorts of vehicle crime prevention advice and you can visit the Secured By Design website for details of police-approved security products. You can also help by remaining vigilant and reporting any suspicious activity to the police by dialling 101 or to Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111, which you can do anonymously. If you’re not already in one, why not think about starting or joining a neighbourhood watch scheme? It’s easier than you’d think, and an effective way of fighting many types of crime. Finally on this subject, it is still true that the most common way to steal a car is by obtaining the keys, and thieves will break into homes to obtain them. Thankfully this type of crime is very rare, but you should still take precautions by placing keys out of sight or away from doors or windows where they could easily be reached. Don’t take them to bed with you, however, and if threatened (again a rare occurrence), hand them over – cars can be replaced. Try to remember as much as you can about the thieves, what they wore, how they spoke, etc. to help the police investigation.
Finally, I’d like to close this fairly long (for me!) blog by re-stating that whilst vehicle crime is low, especially when compared to the number of vehicles on the road, it does happen and you should take sensible steps to protect your vehicle and other property. If you’re in doubt follow some of the links I’ve included above or contact the police on 101 and ask to speak to your local Crime Reduction Officer.