Experts say violent attacks and burglaries are about to rise as thieves try to thwart ever-more ingenious car security
The traffic light ahead flicks from green to amber. You wont make it, so you stop.
Your mind wanders. A shadow appears at the window, which is odd. Suddenly, frigid air hits your face as your car door is wrenched open; hands grab at you, wrestle you from your seat. You fight, but there are too many, theyre too strong. Bang! White, searing pain and stars. Youre on the pavement, dazed. Revs flare, tyres squeal and your car is gone. Welcome to car crime, 2011-style.
Its got nastier and more aggressive, because new cars are so difficult to steal. Criminals have to get their hands on your car keys to get what they want. That could mean a car jacking, being followed and mugged in the street or having someone break into your house.
These crimes arent hitting the headlines. Home Office statistics suggest that car crime has more than halved since 2003, but that isnt the full story. The problem of vehicle theft is poised to get worse rather than better.
Ten most stolen vehicles
1 Ford Transit
2 Ford Fiesta
3 Vauxhall Astra
4 Volkswagen Golf
5 Vauxhall Corsa
6 Ford Focus
7 Mercedes Sprinter
8 Ford Mondeo
9 Ford Escort
10 Vauxhall VectraThis is because of the way vehicle crimes are recorded. A car taken by force is regarded as a robbery, while a car stolen after the thief breaks into a house and takes the keys is listed as a burglary. Only cars that are broken into and driven away are classified as vehicle thefts and as our Security Awards overleaf show, thats something that has become increasingly hard to do on modern cars.
Detective inspector Andy MacKay heads up the Association of Chief Police Officers Vehicle Crime Intelligence Service. His job is to stop car thieves and car theft, and to recover stolen vehicles. Hes a very busy man: on average 1 million worth of stolen vehicles are recovered a month. That sounds impressive until you learn that only around half of all stolen vehicles are ever recovered.
No one is safe, according to MacKay. Every car, not just a prestige car, is a target. After years of dramatic falls from the height of car crime in the 1990s, the evidence of the past few months suggests that the number of car thefts may be about to rise again, particularly in metropolitan areas, he says. Some car thieves want the easy win of an older car that they can give a new identity [called cloning] and sell on. Others target prestige cars to order.