It appears that England has likely seen more carjackings this years alone than over the period of the last 3 years and has reached an all-time high, prompting police warnings nationwide. It’s been reported that car crime in the UK has tripled in the last 3 years, and the region affected to the greatest degree appears to be the West Midlands.
Here’s everything you need to know about carjacking in the UK.
👉 What’s driving UK’s carjacking epidemic?
👉 Which marques are targeted?
👉 Carjacking scenarios
👉 Who are the carjackers?
👉 Growing violence
👉 Why is UK’s carjacking epidemic not about to subside?
👉 How to prevent carjacking?
👉 The good news
👉 How an anti-hijack system works
What’s Driving UK’s Carjacking Epidemic?
The drastic increase is carjackings is thought to be driven by the demand for spare parts needed to repair a growing number of written-off vehicles sold as ‘repairable’ by the insurance industry. It is estimated that there are up to 5 times more cars sold as ‘repairable’ by insurance companies as opposed to write-offs for scraping.
This spiraling demand for car parts, in turn, is thought to be fuelling the rise in vehicle crime, including ‘relay theft’, property burglaries (physical key theft), and violent carjackings.
It is suspected the imbalance is leading criminal gangs to steal cars to order for matching spares, rather than buy expensive factory-made parts from manufacturers.
The ‘repairable’ cars are purchased from insurance companies, fixed up in ‘chop-shops’ (sometimes within hours), and immediately re-sold on the second hand market via eBay, Gumtree, AutoTrader, and similar.
Which Marques Are Targeted?
Traditionally luxury and high-spec luxury cars, were the primary targets (and they still are!). However, latest statistics show that tendencies have shifted exponentially, and thieves are now targeting all kinds of cars — and increasingly those popular on the mid-range market. These trends can be analysed in more depth***, but the general perception is that the more popular a vehicle is, the more likely it is to become a target.
According to this article:
“In the past month, BirminghamLive has reported on at least 16 carjackings, ranging from a 15-year-old boy stabbing a driver in Selly Oak, to a man being battered for his £400 Ford KA in Kings Norton.”
“Ford cars and vans were the model most commonly targeted by carjackers and vehicle thieves over the past financial year, official figures show. The brand was the most frequently stolen, followed by Vauxhall, BMW, Audi and Hondas representing tens of millions of pounds.”
*** Indeed, as of late we have been seeing the most unlikely makes/modes being targeted that have previously been of very little to no interest to thieves. A good example is the 2018 ‘Corsa cannibals’ case. Vauxhall Corsa is an inexpensive city car, so, in theory, an unlikely target. However, this particular car is popular with young drivers, who, in turn, are more likely to be involved in accidents and collisions, damaging the car, which is subsequently written-off and sold as ‘repairable’ by the insurance company.
‘White vans’ are, perhaps, the most targeted form of transport in the UK – Ford Transit Custom being the country’s number 1 most stolen motor vehicle several years running. Although light commercial vehicle owners have not seen as many carjackings compared to car owners, vans are targeted very heavily via other theft methods, and also there are dozens of break-ins every day by power tool hunters.
It is important to emphasise, that any make/model can become a target for carjacking as it cannot be predicted which make/model is currently in the works at the particular ‘chop-shop’ to whose order the carjackers are sourcing parts.
Carjacking can occur pretty much anywhere. Usually the thieves will target lone drivers, but there have been cases where couples or a parent with a child were carjacked.
High-risk places are quiet residential streets where there aren’t any people around and no heavy traffic, so the thieves can easily make away with the stolen car.
Carjackings frequently happen in car parks of supermarkets and shopping centres.
Another high-risk location is your own driveway! Thieves will often carjack a person as they’re about to park or as they’re about get into their vehicle, on their way to/from home.
It is not an unlikely scenario for carjackers to throw the driver out of their car as they’re standing at a traffic light.
Some carjackers are more creative than others and will use sneaky techniques to get a driver whose car is of interest to them, to stop and get out of the car voluntarily. There have been cases reported where hijackers pose as police or traffic wardens, place obstacles on the road, and pretend to be in need for help in order to get the target to pull over.
Who Are The Carjackers?
The overwhelming majority of UK’s carjackers are juveniles and young adults hailing from low income households, most with a previous criminal record. Local teenagers form gangs and are usually involved in other criminal activity in addition to car theft, such as ‘scooter crime’ (snatching bags and mobile phones from pedestrians). They usually travel in 3s, often on motorbike or using a previously stolen car to commit further crime.
Whilst UK’s criminals are far more ‘primitive’ compared to those in other countries, they are, sadly, far more dangerous, having caused dozens of vehicle owners grave bodily harm and life-threatening injuries, as well as several deaths, just this year alone…
There’s no denying the fact that carjacking attacks keep getting more and more vicious…
Whilst the situation has been worsening over the past couple of years, even just last year we heard more of cars being stripped down at night and relay attacks, whilst this year it is violent attacks we see more of.
UK’s first officially documented death-in-carjacking is thought to have occurred in 2002, when 22-year-old estate agent, Timothy Robinson, was attacked by a couple of teenage carjackers, 17 and 18, and stabbed to death by one of them, Dwaine Williams, of Brixton, South London, subsequently jailed for life. This attack was shortly followed by a spate of carjackings, including the vicious South London attack on a woman driver as her £50,000 Mercedes was taken from her as she drove to pick up her children from school.
There have been many serious injuries and several deaths since…
There was a quiet(er) period in-between, but 2019 is worse than ever as car crime peaks at an all-time high, carjacking attacks getting more vicious and the thieves increasingly brazen and unceremonious. Most shocking of all, is that the average carjacker is still in their teens. Most recently convicted carjackers were between 14 and 19 years of age.
Why Is UK’s Carjacking Epidemic Not About To Subside?
1. Now that there’s been massive media exposure warning vehicle owners of the vulnerability of keyless cars, many vehicle owners have taken precaution and protected their vehicles against the method previously favoured by thieves – the relay hack. The ‘next best thing’ (i.e. another easy / no brainer way to steal a vehicle) is carjacking. So, essentially, the same thieves that rendered ‘easy prey’ by stealing cars in a less ‘intrusive way’ have now resorted to carjacking as the ‘next best thing’.
2. The cuts in the Police force have given criminals a boost in confidence as ‘lawless Britain’ is struggling to contain the crimewave its being consumed by, vehicle recovery statistics are appalling as most stolen cars are never recovered. It is also thought to be related to the Brexit chaos. As the officials, apparently, ‘have better things to do’, in the thieves’ eyes ‘car crime is not a priority’, so the criminals (quite rightly) assume that they are less likely to be caught, which contributes to their sense of entitlement.
3. Car crime in the UK isn’t adequately punished, with the average fine for stealing a car being below £200, and since most of such crime is committed by juveniles, who are even less likely to get a ‘proper’ sentence, – many do, indeed, get away with probation and a fine, rather than being charged with assault or attempted murder, the standard defense argument being ‘difficult upbringing and ADHD’ :/ for teenage thugs, an overwhelming majority walk free.
4. Criminals are well-aware that the Police won’t investigate a case unless there’s a ‘clear lead’. Unless you can point to the location of the car or name the suspects and provide information on where to find them, it isn’t likely that the Police will look into the case.
5. Carjackers are aware that most vehicle owners in the UK are oblivious to the importance of aftermarket vehicle security. Compared to other counties (with much lower crime rates) the first thing a person will do when acquiring a new vehicle, is install and aftermarket vehicle security system on it. This is, sadly, not the case in the UK, and the criminals exploit the fact that a large percentage of UK vehicle owners have nothing more than a generic tracker for additional security, if that. Trackers are, perhaps, the easiest form of ‘security’ (if you can call it that) to bypass — thieves will use signal jammers to render the tracker offline and will subsequently physically locate and remove it, so chances of recovering the car – let alone getting to the thieves, are very slim…
How To Prevent Carjacking / What To Do If You Are Carjacked
First of all, – remember the golden rule: Prevention is the best defense.
When it comes to avoiding carjacking, taking preventive measures is the best way to go to ensure you don’t fall prey to carjackers. Remember, they are looking for an easy prey. Don’t be that. However, making yourself / your an unappealing target is not enough. Having a “Plan B” is of utmost importance.
You can follow these tips and hope for the best…
… or you can opt for a reliable anti-hijack system installed to your car.Very Important!Don’t try to fight the carjackers. They are dangerous thugs ‘on a high’, usually armed, and will not hesitate to attack you. Dozens of carjackings have resulted in life-threatening injuries and deaths. No point being a ‘dead hero’. Play it safe. Your loved ones need you alive.
In the words of Neil Thomas, Director of Investigative Services at AX and a former Detective Inspector for West Midlands Police:
“In my experience criminals are often unimaginative and sometimes the tactics go no further than simply dragging people out of nice cars. However, as vehicle thefts rise, we’ve noticed new methods being used that are much sneakier than using physical violence alone. We urge drivers to remain vigilant and, most importantly, if you are threatened with violence, give up your car – your life is far more valuable than any vehicle.”
The Good News
As noted before, compared to other countries, UK’s typical carjacker is a juvenile or a young adult with below-average IQ, therefore they will use fairly primitive theft methods. This means that they are unlikely to be able to compromise a vehicle security system if one is installed. Carjackers in particular rely on physical key theft assuming that having the factory key to the vehicle is enough to gain full control over it.
What this means, is that a reliable aftermarket anti-hijack system can really make all the difference. Not only will it allow you to surrender your car keys, get to safety, and call the authorities, but it will stop the thieves in their tracks — the vehicle will be immobilised when it’s far enough to keep you safe, but close enough to be recovered shortly after – once the thieves had fled and the Police has arrived.
How An Anti-Hijack System Works
There are different anti-hijack systems on the market – some more, other less effective.
The purpose of an anti-hijack system as such is to allow the driver to safely surrender their car to carjackers without risking their safety, and subsequently recover the vehicle.
All StarLine’s 6th generation vehicle security systems have several anti-hijack features to ensure that you are protected against different carjacking-type scenarios.
1. All StarLine systems feature automatic door locking (i.e. the vehicle locks automatically as you start driving and the doors stay closed until unlocked automatically from inside by the driver). This prevents the type of carjacking where a person is thrown out of their car by brute force, as described in this article.
2. StarLine’s anti-hijack allows you to safely surrender the keys to your vehicle and allow the thieves to drive the car — for a certain time / distance (parameters and conditions can be adjusted), before it’s immobilised, whilst you get to safety and alert the authorities.
3. If you have opted for a Connected Car package and you have any additional authentication methods in place, like a StarLine smart tag and/or your smartphone for driver recognition, and those are stolen too, you can still contact your vehicle and immobilise it remotely on-demand either by making a phone call / text message to the system, or via your online account at the StarLine Connected Car network.
In a word, if a carjacker gets into your vehicle with its engine running and drives off – they will not get far – even if they have the actual factory key to the vehicle.
StarLine’s anti-hijack algorithms are road-legal and safe; our Partners are instructed to program the systems in a way that immobilising the vehicle wouldn’t endanger other road traffic participants. For example, when the anti-hijack system kicks-in, there is a warning sound and the hazard lights come on warning other drivers and pedestrians. Also, the vehicle is not immobilised until a set up pre-programmed conditions are met i.e. the vehicle is moving below X/mph and the brake pedal is pressed. StarLine systems can be customised using a number of different criteria for the activation and execution of the anti-hijack mode (we call this ‘conditional anti-hijack – a concept exclusive to StarLine).
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.