Despite a reduction over the past few years the British Isles still have one of the highest rates of Vehicle Related Crime in Europe.
There are many forms of Vehicle related crime ranging from the opportunist theft of items from a vehicle to organised theft of goods in transit.
There are also many interested parties involved in the prevention of Vehicle related crime ranging from the vehicle owner trying to protect his property to the Commercial Fleet Operator trying to deliver his cargo. There are the interests of the Insurance companies trying to reduce their losses and obviously that of the Police Force fighting crime. Because of the varied nature of Vehicle Crime there are many approaches to crime prevention and there are many companies now producing a wide variety of crime prevention methods, but there is one common denominator, cost effectiveness.
This suggests that before taking any crime prevention measures a risk assessment should be made together with the costs involved. These costs should not only include the loss of a vehicle, goods or property but also an inconvenience factor, a possible loss of earnings, and even the trauma often associated with Vehicle Crime.
There are many sources of information available on Crime Prevention methods, through the Motoring Press and Police Crime Prevention publications and there are two non-profit making organisations, Thatcham and the Vehicle Security Installation Board (VSIB), both specialising in the standards for Vehicle Security.
Thatcham is the Insurance companies own testing house that sets the standard and test and accredits security products. This enables insurance companies to recognise good security when assessing premiums and in some cases discount the insurance premium to those customers investing in good security. Thatcham have accredited security products for Cars and Light Commercial Vehicles, Heavy Goods Vehicles and Motorcycles.
The VSIB is responsible for the industry’s own Codes of Practice for the installation of security to, Cars and Light commercial Vehicles, Heavy Goods Vehicles, Motorcycles and is in the process of developing a code for the installation of security to Plant. It is recognised that no matter how good a security product is if it is not installed correctly it is of no value. To counter this the VSIB accredits Vehicle Security Installation Companies that can prove they can operate to the Code of Practice as they monitor an Accredited Company’s standard of work and customer satisfaction. These Accredited Companies issue an embossed VSIB certificate for every installation they complete. When the product installed is a Thatcham approved system, it will satisfy any Insurance Company requirements.
Specific Vehicle Crime
The Opportunist Theft
The Opportunist theft is the simplest form of vehicle related crime. It is, as its name suggests, the thief stealing a vehicle or goods from a vehicle when the opportunity is presented. This is possibly the easiest to prevent, as the owner of the vehicle is usually responsible for presenting the opportunity to the thief in the first place.
Simply locking the vehicle at all times, even when paying for petrol at the petrol station forecourt, or when just going back into the house when you have forgotten something, is essential. Not leaving valuable items in the vehicle, or if you must, certainly not leaving them on show. Lock them in the boot, a thief will look under seats and in glove boxes. Consideration should also be given when parking a vehicle. The government are encouraging secure car parks with gate controls and CCTV. These should be used. Park under street lamps or in well used areas, not in dark secluded back streets.
Fit a mechanical steering wheel lock or gear lever lock, or have passive arming two-circuit immobiliser fitted to prevent the thief from driving the vehicle away. (The passive arming feature means the system arms itself after the ignition is turned off so it is impossible to forget to arm the system).
Have a remote controlled alarm system fitted, these can include the passive arming two-circuit immobiliser. Make sure a visible indication has been fitted to act as a deterrent, (e.g. stickers in the windows that show an alarm is fitted, but not which make), and a visible indication is armed, (usually a flashing light on the dash board). But if this is fitted always remember to arm the system as it is also an indication, when not flashing, that the system is disarmed. If the vehicle has it’s own central locking it is a good idea to have an alarm system fitted that can be connected to lock/unlock the vehicle when the alarm system is armed/disarmed. This convenience feature will help insure the system is always armed when you leave the vehicle.
There are many features available to combine with an alarm system such as the closure of electric windows and sunroof when the system is armed (it is even possible to close the electrically operated hood of some convertible cars), or the detection of the vehicle being jacked up to steal wheels and tyres, and the possibility of a pager to inform the driver when away from the vehicle that it is being tampered with. There are even on the market systems with multi-channel remote controllers which apart from being used to arm and disarm the security system they can open the vehicle owners own electrically operated driveway gates or garage doors.
The “professional” theft is more difficult to combat. Unlike the opportunist thief who looks for the easy steal to present itself they will go to great lengths to target specific vehicles or commercial cargoes. They will have in place efficient methods to dispose of a vehicle, or it’s cargo quickly, to change a vehicles identity or dismantle it for spare parts, to export it, or even hide it for future use in another crime.
Again an assessment needs to be made of the specific risks involved in relation to the vehicles value and use. There is another factor involved in this assessment and that is of the personal risk that may be involved for the owner or operator of the vehicle where there is the possibility of the vehicle being hi-jacked.
The requirements of insurance companies have more relevance with the higher risk vehicles and cargoes, even to the extent of certain levels of security being mandatory before a policy is issued. Physical security is an important element of theft prevention particularly for commercial vehicles. This can take the form of additional high security locks, window bars or grills, padlocks and even a safe fixed into the vehicle.
Electronic security can range from immobilisation of the engine and fuel systems to, in the case of heavy goods vehicles, preventing the release of the air brakes after the hand brake has been applied. There are alarm systems that can be programmed to suit the operation of the vehicle, systems that automatically arm themselves when the operator leaves the vehicle. Systems that automatically arm the load space of a vehicle while leaving the driver’s area disarmed so the vehicle can be driven with the cargo secured (it has been known for goods to be stolen from a vehicle while it is stationary at traffic lights).
Another option is a silent alarm system that can activate a warning to a control centre. This would also incorporate a tracking device so the control centre can pinpoint the location of the vehicle and direct the police to intercept the stolen vehicle. With some more sophisticated versions of this system the control centre can immobilise the vehicle when it is next stationary or slowly reduce the vehicles power until it comes to a halt.
In the case of commercial vehicles it is always important to consider the use of the vehicle. A multi-drop delivery vehicle would have different requirements to a long haul single drop vehicle. With due respect to the vehicle driver, he is not necessarily the owner of the vehicle or it’s cargo so his attitude to security may be casual. It is therefore important to remove the need to arm or lock the vehicle by installing systems that arm themselves when the vehicle is left unattended, (automatic alarm systems) and lock themselves when the doors are shut (slam-locks). This only leaves the driver the task of disarming the system and unlocking the door when gaining entry to the vehicle.
There are many ways to make the operation of the security system convenient for the vehicle operator, such as transponders attached to the vehicles keys to eliminate the need to physically mobilise the vehicle, remote radio operation of disarming the system and unlocking the vehicle, and even a transponder attached to the drivers person so the vehicle is able to recognise the legal operator of the vehicle before it mobilises.
Vehicle security is very complex subject and it is important to get as much information as possible before making risk assessment and deciding on the level of security needed for the particular vehicle and it’s operation. It is recognised that cost effectiveness is important but be sure to include all the potential costs of loss of the vehicle in your assessment. Be sure to include any Insurance Company requirements.