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Vans are target for keyless crime

By: Dave Robbins
06 January 2015

First, the good news. Despite there being 8m more vehicles on the road than in 1993, car thefts have reduced by 80%. So what’s the bad news? This reduction hasn’t extended to commercial vehicles.
The reason behind this is an increase in ‘keyless’ theft of vans – with the London area being a hot spot. Vans are, of course, a particularly popular target because they’re often carrying a valuable payload, or have tools on board. According to the Police, Ford Transits, Ford Transit Connect and Mercedes Benz Sprinters are most at risk.
Keyless car theft is the province of organised criminal gangs. They use a device to block the radio signals when an intended victim uses their electronic key to lock the vehicle. Once in the cab a device is plugged into the onboard diagnostic port (OBD), allowing the criminal to download the vehicle’s electronic info onto a blank key. The key is then compatible with the van which the thief simply drives away. The whole process can be completed in a matter of seconds.
What is particularly worrying is that the devices being used to steal vans can easily be bought, often via internet auction sites. Laura Parker, commercial vehicle specialist at Ford of Britain, said: “The problem is exacerbated by the purchase and supply of equipment used for vehicle thefts being unregulated. Ford is working with partners including the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), the police, independent vehicle security experts Thatcham and others to ascertain the extent of the problem and to develop preventative measures collectively across the industry.”

For those wishing to take more immediate measures to protect their van fleet, other lower technology methods are available. West Midlands’ Superintendent Paul Keasey, who’s also head of the UK’s Central Motorway Police Group, suggests that a steering wheel, gear knob or handbrake lock are all proven and highly visible ways of making a thief think twice before attempting to steal your van. It’s also worth considering fitting a tracker or OBD lock.

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