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John Campion: Car manufacturers must do more to cut thefts

By Mark Andrews | Motors | Published:

Shropshire's police commissioner has urged motor manufacturers to do more to tackle the rise in car thefts after a police officer was seriously injured by a suspected car thief.

West Police and Crime Commissioner John Campion said he was concerned about the rise in car crime involving 'keyless' ignition systems which use an infra-red device and a push-button rather than a conventional key.

He also called for action to be taken against internet traders which sell the equipment that thieves use to over-ride the keyless systems.

“More needs to be done to prevent keyless vehicles from being targeted," said Mr Campion.

John Campion

"It is simply not good enough that we continue to see the number of thefts increase.

“Manufacturers have a responsibility to ensure the technology cannot be so easily overridden, but the internet also needs to prevent the equipment being so easily available for thieves to purchase.

“People who buy a keyless vehicle shouldn’t have to worry about whether or not it will still be on their drive in the morning.”

His call comes after an officer with the neighbouring West Midlands force was attacked and run over with his own patrol car while he was trying to arrest a suspected car thief in Birmingham.

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Mr Campion's counterpart at the West Midlands force, David Jamieson, has written to the car manufacters' trade body, calling for more to be done about car security.

He named and shamed car manufacturers whose vehicles were most likely to be stolen, with Ford, Audi, BMW and Mercedes coming out as the worst.

In the first seven months this year, the force recorded 5,527 stolen motor vehicles – double the entire amount stolen in 2015 – while in the year to March, 36,936 vehicle offences were recorded.

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In his letter to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, Mr Jamieson, said his national campaign calling on car makers to close security loopholes was "moving up a gear".

"Many vehicle thefts result in highly dangerous pursuits, risking the lives of both police officers and members of the public. This situation cannot be allowed to continue," he wrote.

Car owners living in fear of thieves

Mr Campion said extensive work is being done at both a local and national level to tackle vehicle crime, including the links to more organised activity.

“I have made an investment in protecting communities, through schemes like We Don’t Buy Crime and by giving officers the tools to police more visibly,” he said.

“Our communities also have a part to play by following simple crime prevention advice, as police and partners work together to tackle this complex issue.”

He said whether or not the sale of such devices should be banned was a matter for government.

But he added: “However if it was of benefit to our communities and to our police force, in terms of reducing demand, it would be a decision I would welcome.”

Mr Jamieson said the growing market for car parts was fuelling a rise in vehicle thefts, putting the public and police officers in “serious danger”.

In a letter to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), he wrote: “Many vehicle thefts result in highly dangerous pursuits, risking the lives of both police officers and members of the public.

“This situation cannot be allowed to continue.”

Citing huge rises in thefts of Ford vehicles – which in the first seven months of 2019 are already more than triple the figure from 2015 – he added: “It is clear that the momentum for most vehicle manufacturers to make their vehicles more secure, is going at snail’s pace.

“Consumer organisations are disappointed, at what many are describing as limp excuses by the SMMT.

“Drivers are now paying vastly inflated insurance premiums for their cars because they are so easily stolen.

“I am angry at the apparent ease at which criminals are stealing cars and I have pledged to publish car theft data every six months so motorists can make informed decisions about their choice of vehicle.”

Mr Jamieson has called for a meeting with the SMMT to discuss the issue.

Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, said: “The recent increase in vehicle theft is a concern and industry takes the matter extremely seriously.

“Manufacturers are investing billions of pounds in new security features to try to stay one step ahead of the criminals, but technology can only do so much.

“A coordinated approach is needed and we continue to call for action to stop the open sale of equipment which helps thieves steal cars – equipment which has no legal purpose – and have already joined both the West Midlands Police and West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner’s representatives in a Home Office taskforce to see how this can be addressed.”

Mark Andrews

By Mark Andrews
@MAndrews_Star

Senior news writer for the Shropshire Star specialising in in-depth features and commentary, investigative reporting and political matters.

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