Caution urged during festive season
And so this is Christmas - a time of peace and giving. Alas it’s also a time of taking, as car and other crime rises dramatically in the lead-up to the festive season.
To avoid falling prey to thieves, motoring organisations have issued a cautionary shortlist of measures that drivers should take to ensure maximum safety and security.
Drivers should park in a well-lit and open area and, if possible in a supervised local authority car park, some of which offer special Christmas parking rates to shoppers.
All valuables, including Christmas presents, should be kept out of sight.
The car’s steering lock should be engaged and all traces of satellite navigation fittings, including cradles and tell-tale ring marks, should be removed.
In periods of cold weather, vehicles should not be left with the engine running to defrost windows, and vehicles should be locked when left unoccupied, including on garage forecourts.
“The combination of cold weather and Christmas often sends shoppers to local shopping centres and supermarkets. Don’t let your car become a target for thieves,” a spokesperson for the Institute of Advanced Motoring advised.
Several organisations, including the AA and RAC, display information on local traffic and weather conditions and provide tips on how to drive safely in winter on their websites.
Drivers planning a trip should consult this information prior to setting out, road safety experts advise.
Meanwhile one car company, Ford, has conducted extensive research in recent years into the development of hi-tech vehicle security systems to help prevent car thieves from stealing at any time of the year but especially over the busy Christmas period.
The company monitors evolving tactics used by car thieves and uses the input to develop its security systems, such as multi-frequency locking systems and volume-sensing alarms.
Aware that Christmas shoppers often return to their vehicles to drop off purchases mid-shopping spree, criminals sometimes use a signal jammer operating on the same frequency as vehicle locking systems to block cars from being successfully locked. Criminals are then able to loot the vehicles unhindered.
However Ford vehicles equipped with Keyless Entry remote central locking – the Fiesta, Focus, C-MAX, S-MAX, Mondeo and Galaxy – can detect whether a locking command has been successful and, if not, will resend the command at a different frequency.
“Winter, and the festive season in particular, can be a lucrative period for both organised car criminals and opportunist thieves,” says Simon Hurr, Vehicle Security specialist, Ford of Europe.
“Working with the police throughout Europe to analyse trends in car crime and the methods used by criminals enables us to develop ways to prevent thieves from spoiling what should be the happiest time of year for all,” he added.
Dark Christmas nights can be perfect for another activity that’s sure to earn car criminals a place on Santa’s naughty list – the “smash and grab”, a criminal technique as old as car crime itself but one that shows no signs of waning.
The Thatcham Category 1 volume-sensing alarm available for the Focus,
C-MAX, S-MAX, Kuga, Mondeo and Galaxy can detect a thief entering through a window and deliver a high-volume warning to deter intruders and attract attention to the crime.
Car crime is not a problem restricted to the festive season, but dark nights combined with bustling towns and shopping centres full of distracted car-owners with plenty on their to-do lists are elements that play into the hands of increasingly cunning car criminals severely lacking in Christmas spirit.
“In 2011, criminals succeeded in staying one-step ahead of their victims, but by working in partnership with their customers Ford is making a valuable contribution to customer vehicle security,” says Mike Briggs, Vehicle Security manager at Thatcham, the UK insurer funded automotive research centre.
“Ultimately, however, owners have a responsibility to ensure their vehicles are protected; in particular by paying careful attention to keeping their vehicle keys secure at all times,” he added.