It has come to our attention that a new trend seems to be forming on UK’s car crime scene and that is vehicle headlight theft.
We have seen sad-looking luxury cars on London roads missing a pair of headlights on a few occasions in the past few weeks, and our Partners from other regions in the UK have confirmed that it seems to be an upcoming tendency as a few of our Partners have been approached by victims of headlight theft asking for advice on preventing this happening again.
A horrifying story was shared with us last week by one of our Partners, whose customer had had to buy his own stolen headlights back from eBay. He realised that those were his own headlights as they were delivered to him and he noticed a tiny nail varnish stain on the side of one of them that he knew was there before, accidentally left by his wife a while ago. The eBay seller took no responsibility for selling stolen parts and claimed that his business is fully certified and legal, adding that he sources his stock from third parties (whom he, of course, refused to name) and is not legally obligated to check the origins of the parts he resells 😟.
The act of stripping vehicles of external parts is not a new trend. This has been going on for years across Europe, and each country has it’s own tendencies as the type of spare parts that are in demand for any particular market can vary significantly across regions, depending on a number of factors.
For the UK, this has not been a noteworthy issue and not really something to be concerned about for at least the past decade, but it all seems to be changing now. The media haven’t caught up with the forming trend yet, so the public has not been exposed to it and so vehicle owners are blissfully unaware that they could be the next victim.
We have conducted a thorough research and based on the finding would like to provide the following information and urge our Partners, as well as existing and potential customers, to take note and act accordingly.
Who wants your headlights?
When it comes to vehicle headlight theft in the UK, we have identified 3 groups they are of particular interest to:
1. There are foreign gangs operating across the UK, who will subsequently ship the stolen parts back to their country where these parts are in high demand.
2. Local small-time crooks who will sell them locally, either to a chop shop, at a car boot sale, or online.
3. Illegal chop shop owners who are often either commissioned to polish up vehicles stolen to order, or who themselves are directly involved in organised car crime.
Where do stolen headlights go?
We have identified 3 primary markets for stolen headlights in the UK:
1. They are shipped abroad. For instance, in certain European countries, particularly in the Baltic States and Scandinavia, Porsche headlights are in very high demand and can cost a fortune to obtain through official sources (the dealer’s), so they are highly sought after on the black market and can cost anywhere between GBP 500 and 1.5K each, depending on the model / year of the car and the condition of the part.
2. They are sold in the open as a spare part on the likes of eBay – either locally or internationally.
3. They are used as a donor in a private chop shop for (usually) an illegally obtained i.e. stolen vehicle in preparation for selling it on the black market.
Also, – this is relatively rare compared to the other methods, – but not unheard of: sometimes thieves will resort to blackmailing the owner, essentially giving them the option to ‘purchase’ back their stolen property (be it a vehicle, powertools, or any other valuable). In fact, there have been a few distinct cases reported in the media recently:
Which vehicle makes / models are targeted for headlight theft?
1. The overwhelming majority of stolen headlights come from very high-end vehicles as, obviously, they are “worth the risk” (in the thieves’ eyes) as they are in high demand on the black market and can cost up to 100x more than headlights from mainstream vehicles.
Porsche is a clear ‘favourite’, followed by, BMW, Range Rover, Audi, Mercedes, and Volvo.
2. Certainly a less frequent occurrence, but popular city car owners can also fall victim to headlight theft. Due to the sheer number of these vehicles on the roads in the UK, the likes of Ford Focus / Fiesta / Kuga, Volkswagen Golf / Polo / Touareg, and similar are also candidates for external part theft due to the number of these cars being written off by insurance companies and subsequently sold privately as ‘repairable’, requiring ‘donor’ parts.
3. Also a lot less common, but light commercial vehicles (‘white vans’) are also at a minor risk for the same reasons as popular city cars. The most common vans sold as ‘repairable’ are Ford Transit / Ford Transit Custom, Mercedes-Benz Sprinter, Vauxhall Vivaro, Volkswagen Crafter, and similar.
Another factor is ease of removal. Some headlights are exceptionally easy to remove – even without damaging the car in the process – taking only about 30 seconds.
How to protect your vehicle from headlight theft?
Our Partners from other countries, where headlight theft is more pervasive and has been for years, who regularly secure high-risk vehicles against headlight and other external part theft, report that the model for securing against this type of theft is the same that we, at StarLine, apply to vehicle theft in general. An effective anti-theft system must:
Be reliable and effective in terms of relaying a timely notification to the vehicle owner if the vehicle is being tampered with.
An alarm with proximity or/and user adjustable impact sensor is a must. Such an alarm must be effective in notifying the owner immediately as tampering is detected. There are 2 types of 2-way alarms: a pager-based alarm and a GSM-based alarm. The latter is more effective as it has no distance limitations and works anywhere where there’s a mobile network coverage.
Delay the thief as long as possible. Delaying the thief accomplishes 2 tasks:
First, it gives the owner enough time to react and take action.
Second, it let the thief know that this is not an easy target, and in the thief’s eye, – if it takes ‘too long’, it’s not feasible.
3. PUT OFF
Make the target as unappealing as possible. Firstly, anything that lets a thief know that this ‘job’ is not worth the hassle, is a viable strategy.
When it comes to protecting the vehicle as a whole, multiple layers of security is the only way to go in order to make a it unappealing. For external part theft, however, the model is slightly different and there aren’t that many options.
Markings on headlights can be a deterrent, but experience shows that it’s a weak one and in the majority of cases is not enough to put a thief off.
Based on extensive research and Partner feedback, it can be concluded that, thus far, there aren’t any effective deterrents to make headlight theft unappealing to a thief, but it’s not a costly service, so worth investing in whatever the case may be.
Making the job as difficult as possible is a strategy that’s been proven to work. A properly installed bonnet lock (hoodlock) and securing headlights from ‘the inside’ is probably the most effective way to communicate to the would-be thief that this ‘job’ is not worth the risk.
Did you know? In addition to protecting headlights, having a boonet lock (hoodlock) fitted in addition to your main vehicle security system, will provide you with a number of very important anti-theft properties; click here to learn more.
If you’re concerned for your vehicle’s security and/or interested in joining #ConnectedCarsUK, feel free to contact us or your local StarLine-approved dealer for a professional consultation and expert advice on how to secure YOUR vehicle. Our Partners are trained to provide all the assistance you need in choosing the right vehicle security solution for your individual needs and one that’s best suited for your vehicle’s make/model.