Police refusing to tell drivers the location of their stolen cars

For some, the microwave makes the perfect hiding place, while others use a biscuit tin, but for today’s fashion conscious motorist only a Faraday pouch or mesh lined box will do.

Motorists are being forced to go to extraordinary lengths to protect keyless car ignition fobs from criminal gangs.

Thieves hack signals from keys to start cars, steal them and then courier the vehicle through international criminal distribution networks.

Vehicle manufacturers have become locked in a “costly arms race” with criminals, as the latest kit to breach their security measures is sold on the dark web.

The Telegraph has established how many of the motorists investing in car-tracking equipment to battle the thieves are being told they cannot be given their stolen vehicle’s location amid fears they could take the law into their own hands or come face to face with dangerous crooks.

The problem was illustrated last week when Giles Coren, the 51-year-old television presenter, complained that officers had “no interest” in catching the thieves who stole his Jaguar because the case had been closed in less than an hour.

His car was probably stolen through a digital interception called a "relay attack," where one thief uses an amplifier to pick up the ultra-wide band (UWB) key fob signal from inside the house and broadcasts it to a receiver held by the accomplice next to the car to pretend the key is in range and so unlocks the door and readies the ignition to start on command. Mr Coren, who lives in North London, was eventually told his stolen car had been found in nearby Camden on Friday.

Dr Ken German, former head of the Metropolitan Police’s stolen vehicle squad who has a PhD in international vehicle crime, said criminals can load cars onto a lorry to evade police automatic number plate recognition systems or just make a dash for a ferry.

They can use “chop shops,” scrap yards where cars are stripped of identification codes and broken down for valuable parts that are then shipped abroad.

Mr German stressed that although “good tracking companies” have a 94 per cent recovery rate, car parts are valuable in places abroad where there is a boom in the second hand car market.

“There are clever gangs coming here from Eastern Europe,” he said. “Criminals can take cars to the docks and put them in a container and they will be in West Africa very quickly.”

Frustrating for drivers who find their cars

Coren said he only discovered his vehicle because he “tricked a copper” into revealing its location, details that the tracking company refused to disclose. When he found it he discovered the thieves had ripped out the tracker, meaning he had to spend thousands of pounds on a new one.

A Jaguar spokeswoman said that once a car is stolen their tracker company only releases its whereabouts to police. It is understood the company, which has one of the top rated security systems, is one of many that withholds the location from the owner if a car is stolen and found.

If a car’s GPS antenna or battery is disconnected or the vehicle is moving while the engine is off (suggesting it has been concealed in a lorry), the Teletrac Navman system triggers a theft alert. If checks establish it has been stolen, the police are informed and the owner is alerted through the app and told to contact Jaguar.

Asked whether the Jaguar owner will be able to track the car on the app or be told where it is, the spokeswoman said: “No. As a matter of security, if a theft alert is raised in our ‘Secure Tacker’ system we stop sharing the location with customers and instead instruct the owner to contact our Stolen Vehicle Centre.

“Simultaneous to this, our supplier, Teletrac Navman, shares any available location information with the police for their intervention. We do this to avoid customers tracking the car down themselves and entering into a vulnerable situation.”

Although the number of car thefts has fallen dramatically from the peak in the 1990s, a Freedom of Information request found that more than 150,000 vehicles were stolen in the UK in 2018 to 2019, a 56 per cent increase from four years earlier.

Last year, a gang of six men was jailed for a total of 20 years after 120 stolen vehicles were linked to them. They removed tracking devices and used couriers to drive them to Northern Cyprus, where Dervish Chaglar, 48, and Mert Isik, 29, both from London, sold them on the black market.

Jack Cousens of the AA said the chances of recovering stolen vehicles remains “low” because criminal gangs have become so organised.

“Unless there is good CCTV footage or forensic evidence available, it seems there is little police can do. Frustratingly, it means investigations are often closed quickly with no further action taken.”

He urged those with keyless ignition fobs not to forget to shield their spare keys in Faraday pouches or boxes.

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