Reformed burglar turned TV presenter Michael Fraser says thinking like a criminal can help you keep your vehicle safe.
Presenter of BBC1’s “Beat the Burglar”, Michael Fraser knows a thing or two about crime prevention.
After a childhood spent in and out of care, Michael drifted into petty crime and narrowly escaped a jail sentence before being given the chance to go straight by a local business owner.
As a trustee of charity the Apex Trust, he now devotes much of his efforts to ensuring that young people with criminal records are given the same opportunities to reform as he was.
Michael is also keen to help people understand how they can protect themselves and their property. He gave Confused.com his top tips on what thieves are looking for and how to prevent vehicle crime.
1. It doesn’t matter what kind of vehicle you own, thieves will take any car that is easy to steal, irrespective of the model, although he claims a Ford Ka is not as likely to be stolen as they’re viewed by thieves as cheap, with no power and no street cred. A professional car thief will target newer cars and often go for high-powered cars such as BMWs, Jaguars, Mercedes and Range Rover Sports. Vans are usually stolen because the thief can see tools or equipment inside the vehicle.
2. Certain cars are stolen for certain jobs. For example, ram-raiders prefer sturdier vehicles with tow bars or oversize bumpers, and they will choose dark-coloured vehicles so they blend in. White vans are useful for moving stolen goods because they appear anonymous.
3. Any anti-theft device will deter thieves so it is always a good thing to have some kind of security measure because the thief doesn’t want to spend time trying to remove it. Instead, they will just move on to the next car. Criminals will avoid vehicles that have visible devices and deterrents such as a sticker saying “this car has a tracker”. Etched window alarms are also good but factory-fitted ones are the best as the cheaper ones on the market are easy to overcome.
4. The most common mistakes car owners make are leaving things on show such as phone leads, briefcases, handbags, sat nav holders and paperwork. Untidy vehicles attract car thieves. It’s also worth remembering that portable sat navs leave a circular mark on the screen and if you don't wipe the screen it’s obvious that you have one and this highlights that you’re not security conscious.
5. Modern cars may be harder to steal but the problem is we forget to lock them or leave a window open because we’re in a rush. This is exactly what the car thief is looking out for.
6. Most modern cars have a memory chip in the key which makes taking a car harder because thieves can’t hotwire vehicles as they did in the past. But people often leave their car keys in the hallway, on the stairs, in handbags left downstairs or in the kitchen. In order to get the keys, thieves will either go letterbox fishing or they will try the back door because so many people leave them unlocked or open.
7. When you park, there are a few simple actions to reduce the risk of your car being taken. If you’re parking on a road turn the wheels into the kerb, and when in a car park turn the wheels towards another car as thieves will avoid your vehicle if it takes a lot more effort and time to move it. Similarly, when parking on a drive, always drive in rather than reverse in and again, turn the wheels. And if you have a driveway, use it, as the thief has to come closer to you to take the car and they don’t like to do that.
8. Never leave anything with your name and address in the car. If you do, you put yourself at risk of burglary as the thief knows you’re not at home if the car is taken from a town centre or supermarket car park, say, and possibly leaves you open to other types of fraud.
9. From a thief’s point of view, the ideal car is one with no visible security or signs of worn locks. If this applies to your vehicle, it’s time to take action.
10. The best way to keep your vehicle safe is to put a tracker on it, wheel-locking nuts, and a sticker saying the vehicle is alarmed. Plus you should keep the inside tidy, the car locked, the windows shut and everything out of sight.
To prevent yourself becoming a victim of car crime, watch our video on how to protect your car.