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25 October 2005

Car muggings soar as car crime bill hit £1.4BN

Britain's motorists are falling victim to a worrying trend in car mugging according to a study by Autoglass.

The research shows an eightfold rise in the past three years in smash-and-grab attacks where thieves target unwitting motorists as they wait at traffic lights or sit in jams – accounting for one in 12 car break-ins in the last 12 months.

The findings from the 12th annual Autoglass. car crime report also reveals that last year’s car crime bill cost motorists and insurers almost £1.4 billion.

While Government figures released last week claim a fall in the number of car crime attacks, thieves are making MORE money than ever thanks to complacent motorists leaving their belongings on display. A haul from a typical motorist is now £569, up 24% from £458 last year.

The study by Autoglass. shows that car crooks are getting increasingly rich pickings from motorists leaving high-tech gadgets in their cars. Nearly half of those polled had seen their car stereo stolen, up 10% on last year, while the theft of laptop computers has almost doubled, and over 25,900 GPS systems were taken in the last 12 months.

According to Government figures, there were over 3.2 million attacks on cars in England and Wales alone last year – that’s 369 an hour.

But although seven in 10 (70%) motorists think they do enough to combat car crime, one in four (42%) of those polled don’t have a car alarm and of those who do, over one in 10 (12%) didn’t have it set when their car was attacked.

Yet motorists think it’s the police who could be doing more than they are – over three-quarters (79%) reckon they’re more interested in fining speeding drivers than catching car crooks.

Nigel Doggett, managing director of Autoglass., said: “While total car crime figures might be going down year on year, car crooks are becoming increasingly bold in targeting their victims.

“And it’s no wonder when no today’s portable technology means motorists are sitting ducks for smash-and-grab crooks who can’t resist taking a chance on getting their hands on a car full of gadgets, even if the car owner is sitting in their vehicle when they strike.

“Motorists have long been warned about leaving belongings on show in parked cars but perhaps the best policy now is to keep valuables out of sight at all times to minimise the risk of being a target for opportunistic thieves.”

The Autoglass. findings, which have been sent to Home Secretary Charles Clarke, come days before the clocks go back. Darker evenings bring a 22% rise in attacks on cars according to the company which is contacted by over 700 car crime victims every day.

The nationwide study also reveals that:
 26% of thefts occur in public car parks but the most at-risk place for car theft is on the street outside your home (28%)
 Car stereos top the smash and grab crook’s most-wanted list, with over 623,000 being robbed in the last year, followed by CDs or tapes, handbags and briefcases, credit cards, mobile phones and clothes.
 Despite this, motorists are more likely to claim against vandalism (76%) than stolen items (54%)
 36% of vandalism occurs on cars parked in the road outside our front doors

The Car Crooks’ Shopping List – 2005’s most commonly stolen items
Stereos 623,520
CDs / Tapes 298,770
Briefcases / bags/ luggage 207,840
Laptop computers / digital cameras/GPS 168,870
Money / cheque books / credit cards 155,880
Clothes / glasses / sunglasses 155,880
Mobile phones 142,890

Spare a minute, stop a crime
Autoglass. has prepared the following simple, 60-second checklist in a bid to keep motorists, their cars and belongings safe. The Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) estimates it could cut attacks by half.

Says David Ainsworth, Vehicle Crime Lead, ACPO: “Alongside burglary, auto crime remains a distressing crime that a vast range of partners are determined to combat. This simple guide enables drivers to take precautions that will lessen the prospect of them becoming a car crime victim.”

The sixty second checklist is:

1. If you can see valuables so can a thief. When travelling make sure items such as mobiles, bags, i-pods, wallets, laptop computers or shopping are hidden out of view in the glove compartment or boot. Then take everything with you or keep it locked away when you park - 10 seconds

2. When driving, lock all doors apart from the driver's, to reduce chances of thieves helping themselves to items in your car - 5 seconds

3. When parking, don't opt for the nearest space. If possible, try to find a well-lit, open location, such as under a street lamp, in public view or close to CCTV cameras and look for the Park Mark symbol which denotes car parks that have been accredited by police to be observing safety and security best practice - 15 seconds

4. Stereos are the most commonly stolen item. If detachable, remove the radio, cassette or CD player or its front panel. And if you have a removable GPS, take that with you too - 5 seconds

5. Lock all doors and the boot, close windows and shut the sunroof. Remove the ignition key every time you leave your car, even for the shortest of stops or when filling up with petrol - 10 seconds

6. Activate your alarm and electronic immobiliser and, if you have one, always use your steering locks and/or other security devices. And keep the keys safe – new cars are extremely difficult to steal without them - 10 seconds

7. If you can, lock your fuel cap and leave windscreen wipers in the 'park' position to avoid mindless vandalism - 5 seconds


Four case studies of car crime victims based in Johnston, Sheffield, Wales and London are available.

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