Wednesday 12 May 2021

Top tech to tackle vehicle theft

Neil Thomas, director of investigative services at vehicle protection specialist AX, discusses a range of anti-theft technologies, including covert tracking devices

Motor theft has been consistently rising in recent years, with thieves adopting new techniques and evolving their methods to steal vehicles without leaving a trace. Between 2016 and 2019, the number of vehicles stolen in the UK increased by a staggering 21 per cent.

The threat is very real, and no less so for businesses operating a fleet of HGVs or LCVs, who need to ensure they are protecting against motor theft in the most effective way possible. Technology can make a measurable  difference, with several devices available which both prevent theft, and provide businesses with the means to recover vehicles if they are been stolen.

Theft prevention devices

Several theft prevention devices are available in today’s market, each protecting vehicles in their own way.

Basics like steering wheel locks are a great start, attaching to the steering wheel, locking it in place and making it virtually impossible to drive away without first unlocking the device.

While they do have their advantages, these devices rely on drivers locking their steering wheels every time they leave the vehicle, and human error could render them useless should an opportunistic motor thief arrive on the scene.

Kill switches interfere with the engine’s combustion process, shutting it down in the quickest way possible in the event of a theft. Kill switch mechanisms can stop vehicles in several different ways, with some interrupting the spark plug, and others interrupting the engine’s wiring system and sensors.

Immobilisers are electronic devices fitted to a vehicle to stop it from running without the correct transponder key, disabling the ignition, starter motor and fuel system when the correct transponder key is not used. Immobilisers are particularly effective in preventing hotwiring.

Covert tracking devices

Covert tracking devices are the most complex and effective device available to fleet operators looking to protect their vehicles. Combined with intelligent software and dashcams, they can provide valuable information on thieves’ behaviour without their knowledge, ultimately helping fleet managers and the police to recover stolen vehicles.

Unlike most OEM vehicle tracking devices, however, covert devices are very difficult to find and remove, even by the most tech-savvy thieves.

With a division in place purely to combat vehicle crime, AX has an impressive track record when it comes to combatting motor theft and recovering stolen vehicles using covert tracking devices.

Only last year, AX recovered a stolen vehicle just 56 minutes after it had been reported missing. In this case, the thieves were unable to locate the covert tracking device, which then led AX right to the stolen vehicle.

AX’s technology has been effective in derailing fully-formed car crime networks too. Back in 2015, AX tracked one of its own loan vehicles, a high-value Lexus, which had been taken on an unauthorised trip abroad.

AX was able to track the vehicle to a shipping container in Oman, and, at this point, was contacted by the National Crime Agency (NCA), which was initiating an operation to dismantle an international car crime syndicate.

The vehicle was then transported across Africa and finally traced to Kampala, Uganda, where a sting operation was carried out, the syndicate ring-leaders arrested and the container carrying the Lexus seized. However, unbeknown to AX and the NCA, the operation had unearthed a substantial vehicle crime hub, and 24 more stolen vehicles collectively worth more than £1 million were recovered.

The next step

With vehicle and trailer theft a constant threat, fleet operators must ensure they have the full protection package, not only utilising preventative devices but also providing the means to recover a vehicle or trailer once it has been stolen.

Alongside a selection of preventative devices, covert tracking devices give fleet operators the best chance of recovering a stolen vehicle or trailer, and investing in one for each fleet vehicle could protect a business from theft and the hefty costs that come with it.

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