‘Epidemic’ in Keyless Car Thefts Leads to Increased Demand for Vehicle Tracking

Denton-based tracking specialist AMI Group has reported that the soaring increase in keyless car thefts across the UK has led to a huge demand for vehicle tracking devices.

According to the latest data from Office of National Statistics (ONS), car theft rates in England and Wales rose by 56% last year. Some 89,000 vehicles were stolen in 2017, up from 56,000 the previous year, and the worst year on record since 2012.

It is believed that the growing issue of keyless car theft is partly responsible for the increase in car thefts. Criminals are using two relatively cheap devices easily purchased online – a relay amplifier and a transmitter – to trick vehicles into thinking the legitimate entry fob is nearby.

One criminal stands by the car with the transmitter, while a second waves the amplifier near the house the car is parked outside. If the car’s fob is close enough, the amplifier will detect its signal – through doors, walls and windows – amplify it, and send it to the accomplice’s transmitter. The transmitter then effectively becomes the key, ‘tricking’ the car into thinking the real key is nearby. The thieves are able to open the car, push the start button and drive away.

A surveillance video shared by West Midlands Police shows how car-hacking thieves stole a Mercedes parked on the driveway of a home within seconds – without keys and without even touching the vehicle with devices.

Peter Stockton, Operations Director of AMI Group said: “Keyless car thefts are reaching epidemic proportions and we have noticed a huge increase in enquiries for tracking devices from owners of cars with keyless entry. In Greater Manchester alone, car theft has increased by a massive 44% in 12 months – from 4,572 stolen vehicles in 2015/2016 to 6,564 over the same period in 2016/2017. Previously, it was typically luxury or more expensive cars that faced being stolen, but more affordable family vehicles are also being targeted.”

AMI Group provides tracking solutions for car owners across the UK. One of the most prestigious models protected is the Project 7, a limited-run F-type Jaguar. The fastest and most powerful road Jaguar built yet, just 250 of the Project 7 were built. With a price tag of £135,000, the Project 7 has a 5.0-litre supercharged V8 modified petrol engine and accelerates from 0-62mph in just 3.8 seconds with an electronically limited top speed of 186mph.

A private buyer in the North West of England purchased two of the coveted Project 7 cars and due to their high value, was seeking some form of tracking device and protection against theft. AMI Group subsequently fitted the cars with the AT5 battery operated tracking device, in conjunction with Asset+ which comprises a self-contained, covertly installed GPS wireless system combined with a wired-in GPS fleet management system.

Regrettably, one of the Project 7 Jaguars was stolen from a locked compound in Heywood, Lancashire, along with a car trailer. The owner called the AMI out of hours number to alert AMI Group that the car had been stolen. The AT5 unit was placed into an alarm state to notify the owner of the car’s subsequent movements.

The AMI monitoring station informed the owner of the exact time that the car had been moved and updated the positions as provided by the Asset+ system. Through advanced tracking, AMI could see that the car had been taken to Bury, Manchester city centre and Frodsham in Cheshire over a two-day period. The latest GPS position gained from the AT5 unit was given to the police and they were dispatched to Norley near Frodsham.  The police began their searches on a farm, subsequently locating the vehicle within its trailer. Throughout the search, the police communicated with AMI Group to home in on the device using the latest incoming GPS locations.

Later the vehicle was inspected and it was discovered that the thieves had fitted a signal scrambler onto the underside of the vehicle and ripped out the vehicle’s alarm circuit boards and various wiring. However, the AT5 tracking unit was covertly installed within the vehicle and was not discovered by the thieves. The Project 7 car was subsequently recovered and successfully returned to its owner, illustrating the effectiveness of the dual protection AMI tracking system.

Photograph: The recovered Project 7 car.