There is a growing trend of theft in all cars, after two decades of decline, thefts of cars has risen to over 100 000 in a year for the first time in five years.
The Defender features prominently on this list, the design of the vehicle stems from the 80's and as such security of the Defender hasn't moved on, in fact in standard form it has moved backwards... As such this has pushed the Defender into the second most stolen car in the UK, but the humble Ford Escort makes an appearance in the top 10 even though it fell out of production more than a decade ago. Notice a common theme here?
Aside from the Defender the top three most stolen cars are also expensive cars – the Range Rover, and the Audi S3. Production of the much-loved Defender was discontinued in January 2016, it retailed for between £23,000 and £62,000, while the Range Rover sells for upwards of £75,850.
“Due to desirability and demand, many of these vehicles are stolen to order for distribution overseas,” says Steve Launchbury, a vehicle crime engineer at Thatcham Research. “These thefts are carried out by organised gangs who have invested in specialist tools to reverse engineer the vehicle’s security systems, as opposed to your opportunist thief.” This is where our products counter act the standard set up on a Defender. Take a look at our essentials page for Land Rover Defender security to see what we have designed to help keep you defender yours.
The surge in thefts of Land Rover Defenders prompted the insurer NFU Mutual, which focuses on farmers, to urge owners in April to be more security savvy. Claims from its customers following thefts of Defenders rose to £1.8m in 2015, an increase of 8% over 2014. A spokesperson for the insurer said: “Now that Defenders are out of production they are rapidly gaining classic status and rising in value. This is making them more attractive to thieves – either to sell as complete vehicles or to break up to sell as parts.”
According to Dr Ken German, a director at the International Association of Auto Theft Investigators: “Enthusiasts and collectors will pay thousands – sometimes tens of thousands – of pounds for a nice Defender. When you add in the fact that most don’t have the security systems that come as standard on modern cars, you can see the attraction for criminals.”
Technology to overcome vehicle immobilisers, a standard security feature in many cars, is widely available. A Home Office report, Reducing Criminal Opportunity, published in January, warned: “Once the knowledge of electronic compromise spreads from more seasoned offenders to more casual ones, thefts will start to rise.”
Tim Pollard, digital editor-in-chief of Parkers and Car magazine, says car manufacturers do take security seriously, “but it’s a game of cat and mouse”. He says: “As with all thefts, the manufacturers make a security upgrade one day, the criminals then try their damnedest to unpick that update. Car makers spend millions trying to secure their cars, but the thieves are becoming very sophisticated.” Ultimately once they have worked out how to steal one Defender, they work out how to steal them all, and this knowledge passes down to the opportunists too.
While thieves become ever smarter, they are also helped by the carelessness of car owners. Ian Crowder, an AA spokesman, says: “The weakest link remains the driver and how they look after their keys.”
He warns against leaving keys where they can be “fished” for through the letterbox, or leaving the car unattended with the keys in. “Thieves loiter at places such as car parks or fuel stations looking for an opportunity,” he says.
So how can you best protect your car against theft? The police recommend the following measures:
• Park your vehicle in an open, well-lit and secure area where possible. Always park in a garage if you have one, or in view of CCTV cameras.
• Ensure that all windows, the sunroof and boot are shut and locked when leaving your vehicle unattended, no matter how briefly.
• Fit an alarm or immobiliser.
• Use a steering wheel lock and/or a gearstick lock.
• Consider having an onboard diagnostics lock fitted.
On Defenders this can go a lot further, for example:
While it is possible to make it harder for a thief to steal your vehicle, it’s never going to be impossible. According to Thatcham Research, police only recover about 43% of all cars stolen, so it’s advisable to have a tracker fitted if you want to stand a good chance of having your vehicle recovered. “There are varying features with these products and therefore varying costs – from basic tracking to systems that can provide additional immobilisation of the vehicle.” says Launchbury. “[The latter] are particularly useful when the manufacturer’s original immobiliser systems have been compromised.”
One such system is Tracker Cat 5 Plus, which costs £799 to install and £199 a year subscription. According to Andy Barrs, head of police liaison at Tracker, the company that supplies it, more than 95% of stolen vehicles fitted with its tracker system are returned to their owner, and 86% of these are recovered within 24 hours. One reason for its success may be that it is the only system supported by every police force in the UK, with its detection units fitted in police patrol vehicles and helicopters. It also supplies Mercedes, Lexus and Toyota with their tracking systems.
According to the AA, a tracker may be required by some insurers – and, even if not required, having one fitted could lower your premium. For example, NFU Mutual offers a 15% discount on insurance premiums for cars fitted with a tracker approved by Thatcham. It also offers a discount of 10% if you have an electronic alarm and immobiliser; 5% for just an electronic immobiliser; or 2.5% for a mechanical immobiliser.
The top 10 stolen cars
(Theft rate per 1,000 vehicles on the road)
Audi S3: 8.6
Land Rover Defender: 5.8
Land Rover Range Rover: 3.8
Audi Q7: 3.7
Ford Escort: 3.6
BMW X5: 3.1
Audi A5: 3.1
Mitsubishi Shogun: 2.4
BMW 5 Series: 2.4
Toyota Hilux: 2.4