The key to driving down car crime

It appears that the days are gone when a criminal could easily hotwire a car and drive off into the distance.

Modern cars have so many complex mechanical and electronic security systems in place that even breaking the glass can disable the vehicle.

This is the main reason why new car crime figures have plummeted from 170,785 in 2006 to 106,708 in 2010, said Andrew Miller, a director at the motor insurance repair research centre, Thatcham, which is based in Berkshire.

"The vast majority of criminals, unless they're in organised crime, will not have either the will or the ability to overcome these systems," he said.

"If you have a car that is less than 10 years old, the chances are that it will have locks made of a stronger steel that are resistant to attack from tools such as hammers or screwdrivers.

"It will also be impossible to start your car without a key because its control unit has been moved away from accessible areas.

"Years ago you could pull the dash down, grab hold of some component and hotwire the car," said Mr Miller.

"You can't do that now."

Criminals who previously thought breaking the glass was an option now have sophisticated mechanical security to deal with.

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Media captionThe BBC's Richard Scott says technology is putting the brakes on car crime

"If you do break the glass to get into the car, many current modern vehicles have what is known as 'super-locking', sometimes referred to as 'dead-locking'," said Mr Miller.

"The interior handle release won't open the door unless it has been unlocked properly.

"So if you break the glass you can't open it from inside - which means that you'll have to clamber over broken glass."

Apart from dealing with what are now standard car alarms and immobilisers, a car thief also has to overcome a more secure steering lock.

Mr Miller said: "Up until recently they were always column-mounted but we're now moving towards more sophisticated technology such as remote key disabling, where you get in the car and it senses you have the right key."

The vehicle crime statistics are available from the Police National Computer.

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