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By: Paul Geraghty - Updated: 29 Sep 2012 | comments*Discuss
Carjacking Car-jacking Car Jacking

Recent years have seen a sharp fall in the levels of car crime in Britain. Manufacturers have made great strides in introducing new security measures to their vehicles, with the result that it is now very difficult to steal a modern car without being in possession of the keys. While this is all welcome news, it does have a downside - and the downside is that thieves now have a greater incentive to get the keys than they ever did before. Of course, the easiest way to do this is to take them from the car's owner directly: carjacking. Concerns about car-jacking have grown even amid falling rates of car crime generally.

So what is carjacking? And what can you do to protect yourself against it?

Carjacking is stealing a car while its owner is present. This can be done using threats or violence to secure the car keys from the car's owner or, in some cases, opportunistically taking advantage of the driver having left the keys in the vehicle while popping off somewhere temporarily. A broad definition of the term car-jacking would also include the phenomenon of thieves breaking into a person's house just to steal the car keys. Police estimate that 8% of all burglaries in Britain are undertaken for this reason. Altogether, there were over 11,000 cases of car-jacking recorded in Britain last year.

Carjacking - The Risks

Organised car-jacking gangs are known to operate in London, and drivers in the South-East are known to be particularly at risk, because the prevalence of high-value vehicles in the region makes it attractive to thieves. Cars stolen in this way will typically end up on the streets of Eastern Europe or Africa, being shipped out for resale very quickly through established criminal networks.

High-value cars are obviously at greater risk than old bangers, but even if you're not driving the latest top-of-the-range model, you're still at risk. Resale isn't always the goal of the carjackers. Sometimes they intend to use the car in the commission of another crime; and sometimes the thieves are youths who just want to joyride.

Would-be carjackers will often use tricks to lure drivers from their vehicles. One ploy involves a pair of carjackers in a car to arranging a light collision with another car. When the driver comes out to look at the damage, one of the thieves will enter the car quickly and make off. Another ruse is to place some light obstruction like a cone in the path of the vehicle. When the driver emerges to clear it, the carjackers will strike.

Carjacking - Protecting Yourself

So what can you do to protect yourself from car-jacking? One option is to have a tracker system fitted to your vehicle. These allow your car to be located wherever it is taken. Typically, you could expect to pay several hundred pounds for the installation of the device, and a further service charge of around £10-30 monthly to a firm which operates the tracking service.

You do not need to go to vast expense to limit the threat you face from car-jacking, though. Many of the most effective measures you can take come from simply being aware of the problem, and applying common sense to your situation.

  • If you're involved in an accident with another car which seems suspicious or contrived to you, don't get out. Lock your doors, drive to the nearest police station, and tell them what happened.
  • Don't leave your keys in the car when you pop out to a shop or garage. In most cases, your insurance will not cover the theft of your vehicle in these circumstances.
  • If there are multiple lanes, and you're going to be stopped at a junction or traffic lights, move your car into the lane away from the pavement, making it harder for anyone to get to you.
  • While driving in urban areas, keep your doors locked and your windows rolled up.
  • When inside the house, don't leave your car keys somewhere that's easily visible or accessible from outside doors or windows.
  • Be wary when a stranger attempts to flag you down, especially in isolated locales.
Carjacking is a frightening reality in Britain today. Being aware of the danger, however, and applying a number of common-sense measures consistently, can limit the threat it poses to you and your family.

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