The new targets for car thieves

Home invasion … more cars are being stolen after home break-ins than in commuter car parks and shopping centres. Picture: Townsville Bulletin. Picture: Supplied. Source: News Corp Australia

YOUR home has become the new target for car thieves.

The latest figures show seven out of 10 cars are stolen when the keys are found after criminals break into houses.

“Ten years ago, commuter car parks and shopping centre car parks were the hot spots, now 70 per cent of cars are stolen outside a residence,” says Ray Carroll, the head of the National Motor Vehicle Theft Reduction Council.

The car theft expert says it is “too early to tell” if there is a link between the increase in the use of drugs such as ice and the high rate of cars stolen after break-ins.

We know that in cases of opportunistic car theft, the offender is likely to be in need of money for drugs and the car will get stolen if they find the keys during a break-in,” says Carroll.

Since immobilisers became compulsory in July 2001 it has been next to impossible to steal a car without the key because a tiny transponder in the key fob “talks” to the car’s computer milliseconds before the engine starts.

But professional thieves have found new ways to beat immobilisers and there may be nothing we can do about.

They are using readily available diagnostics units — intended to be used by independent mechanics — to disable the car’s immobiliser system.

The handheld devices that plug into the car, usually under the dashboard, are designed to tell mechanics if there are any faults with the vehicle.

The technology previously cost more than $10,000 but can now be bought as cheaply as $150. News Corp Australia found one online for 95 Euros (AUD$153), with the seller boasting “device can turn off or on the immobiliser through the … diagnostic socket. You can use it (a) multiple number of times”.

Authorities have no way of knowing how many of these devices have made it into the wrong hands because there is no restriction on who buys them. They are widely used legitimately by most independent mechanics and auto electricians.

“We’d like to see immobilisers encrypted so they can only be accessed by the car manufacturer’s computer diagnostics equipment, but that will restrict what kind of maintenance independent repairers can do,” says Carroll.

While car theft in Australia is at a historical low, the rate of professional theft is on the rise.

Ten years ago professional theft accounted for 15 per cent of stolen vehicles, today 31 per cent of cars that are stolen are not recovered.

In the peak 12 month period of 2000-2001 there were 142,000 cars stolen across Australia. Today the number has fallen to the lowest on records which date back to the 1970s, with 52,000 cars stolen annually.

Car theft by the numbers:

The number of cars stolen in Brisbane in the past 12 months — 1778 vehicles — is more than double the next highest cities. But 78 per cent of cars are recovered as they are “opportunistic theft” of older vehicles that lack immobilisers.

Blacktown is Sydney’s hot spot with the most number of car thefts — but Bankstown in Sydney’s southwest has the highest rate of professional car theft (stolen and not recovered) in Australia, with 58 per cent of cars stolen in the past 12 months not recovered (311 of 541 total thefts).

There are more cars stolen in the Victorian city of Hume than Sydney’s highest suburb for thefts, Blacktown. In the Hume local government area, 76 per cent of cars are recovered while the number of professional thefts (24 per cent) is lower than the national average.

If you have your car stolen in Tasmania there is a 91 per cent chance of it being recovered, the highest ratio in the country, ahead of the WA city of Stirling, with an 89 per cent recovery rate.

The suburb at the top of the South Australia list, Salisbury, and the NT capital Darwin are in line with the national average of car theft with 69 per cent of vehicles recovered — while 31 per cent vanish, likely broken down for parts.

Car theft by state and territory in the 2014-2015 financial year:

ACT 746

Greater ACT 746

NSW 11,399

Blacktown 703

Bankstown 541

Liverpool 496

Lake Macquarie 431

Penrith 420

Fairfield 393

Wyong 366

Canterbury 339

Wollongong 336

Newcastle 314

NT 995

Darwin 440

Palmerston 212

Alice Springs 124

Litchfield 75

Katherine 45

Victoria-Daly 21

Unincorporated NT 20

East Arnhem 18

Barkly 13

Roper Gulf 9

QLD 7,245

Brisbane 1,778

Gold Coast 1,191

Logan 776

Moreton Bay 572

Townsville 415

Cairns 394

Ipswich 337

Sunshine Coast 309

Toowoomba 158

Rockhampton 134

SA 2,365

Salisbury 325

Port Adelaide Enfield 293

Playford 264

Charles Sturt 260

Onkaparinga 229

Marion 102

West Torrens 89

Adelaide 87

Tea Tree Gully 82

Holdfast Bay 43

Mount Gambier 43

TAS 1,171

Glenorchy 220

Launceston 216

Hobart 191

Clarence 183

Brighton 76

Devonport 56

Kingborough 26

Derwent Valley 26

Meander Valley 22

Sorell 18

VIC 11,179

Hume 769

Brimbank 672

Greater Geelong 648

Whittlesea 560

Moreland 558

Casey 524

Greater Dandenong 509

Darebin 496

Wyndham 452

Melton 326

WA 5,501

Stirling 620

Wanneroo 361

Swan 314

Gosnells 281

Belmont 246

Cockburn 244

Rockingham 219

Armadale 217

Bayswater 192

Joondalup 179

Source: National Motor Vehicle Theft Reduction Council.

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