If you think your 4x4, or its accessories, won’t be stolen, think again. Now more than ever, 4x4s are finding their way out of their owners’ possession and into the hands of thieves. Even modern, immobilser-equipped vehicles are not immune.
4x4 theft made headlines in June this year when Steve Hughes had his Land Cruiser 80 Series stolen, from his mother’s home in Morphett Vale in South Australia, while he received medical treatment for cancer. Statistics suggest Mr Hughes was just one of many unfortunate victims of vehicle theft, and the number’s growing.
Figures compiled by the National Motor Vehicle Theft Reduction Council (NMVTRC), a federally funded body concerned with policies to reduce vehicle theft in Australia, show that 2217 more 4x4s were stolen in the last year compared to five years ago.
A total of 6217 4x4s were stolen for the financial year ending July 31, 2014. And while more of these were recovered than not (4361 versus 1856), the unrecovered 4x4s still represent an estimated value of $36 million.
When you add 2WD variants and those SUV and commercial vehicles that were stolen but their drive system not ascertained, the total theft number rises to 12,563. This figure amounts to one in five passenger vehicles of all types stolen in Australia. So, vehicle theft is still a thriving enterprise in this country.
Surprisingly, vehicles fitted with an Australian Standard immobiliser are major targets. For example; the most commonly stolen 4x4 in Australia is the Toyota Hilux and from 2005 to 2011 it’s had an immobiliser fitted into every vehicle built.
This may be because targeted thefts follow the legitimate market. If your vehicle is popular on the market, it’ll be popular with thieves, too. So it’s no wonder the current HiLux, GU Patrol and D40 Navara are the top three 4x4s stolen by professionals. In fact, even for short-term thefts, the more popular vehicles are stolen – no doubt because of sheer availability.
Ray Carroll, the director of the NMVTRC, said that some vehicles make it easier for thieves than others. With its separate-chassis models, “Toyota only stamps the VIN on the chassis; the body has a label only”. Given that the engine number is not considered a unique number (an engine can be replaced with another for legitimate reasons), “the VIN is the critical thing. They [the thieves] will buy a roll-over or body-damaged vehicle, but still repairable, and rebuild it from the stolen car.”
The overseas market is also one suspected of being a continued motivator for professional thieves. Carroll said that on best estimates, legitimate vehicle exports are joined “by about 30 per cent stolen vehicles.” It is believed that some businesses, with established lines of export business in damaged vehicles, are knowingly or unwittingly exporting stolen vehicles.
Many of the stolen 4x4s are finding their way to countries in the Middle East and Africa where 4x4s are popular. From there it is next to impossible to trace the vehicles back to Australia. Carroll said that Customs: “Are busy enough monitoring inbound freight for illegal shipments; they don’t have the time to follow up exports.”
As for the 4x4s that are stolen for their expensive aftermarket accessories, we have only anecdotal evidence to support suspicions that it’s on the rise.
“The way the police record such thefts is included in ‘theft from a motor vehicle’. There is no way of pairing away accessories from the police reports,” Carrol said.
How to avoid theft
Many new high-end vehicles have an alarm fitted from the factory, but most 4x4s do not. There are many different setups, but having an alarm that will immobilise the vehicle and provide an audible and visual warning if the vehicle is tampered with are key features you’d want. To ensure it’s worth paying for, ensure your alarm meets Australian Standard 3749.
There are a few different tracking devices available, either using radio signals (from the mobile phone network) or satellite. When the vehicle is stolen, the tracking device alerts you and/or the tracking device company. There are all sorts of other features often tied in with the tracking device, usually associated with an alarm system. Systems send you an SMS to let you know when your vehicle has been broken into or when it is being towed, for example.
DataDotDNA is a product that is sprayed or brushed onto your vehicle, and contains numerous microscopic discs (or microdots) on which specific security information for your vehicle is noted.
DataDots can be detected with a UV light due to DataTraceDNA which is included in the adhesive as an invisible or ‘covert’ marker, providing absolute proof of product, and supplying an additional layer of security. The unique code on the DataDot can be read with a simple magnifying device – no complicated forensic investigation is necessary.
Steering wheel lock
Known by a number of brand names, the steering wheel lock has been on the market for more than 25 years and is still a worthy anti-theft device. The device is very simple; its two-piece sliding steel bar hooks onto the steering wheel at opposite sides, the slack is taken out of it and it’s locked into position. If the vehicle is driven, the steering wheel cannot be turned more than a few degrees. The latest models have unpickable locks and are sturdier than early examples.
Where you park and keep the keys
It might sound blindingly obvious, but if you avoid theft hot spots, you’re more likely to see your vehicle when you come back for it. You may not know where those hot spots are, though. The Brisbane CBD on a Saturday night between 8pm and 10pm is the most popular place and time in Australia for a vehicle to be stolen. Visit www.carsafe.com.au to see the latest statistics on where and when vehicles are stolen in Australia.
Police reports indicate that the number of house break-ins where only car keys are stolen are increasing. Keep you vehicle keys in a hidden or secure place at home. There’s no need to make it any easier for the thieves.
ADR 25/02 requires that all offroad vehicles and light commercial vehicles have key locks from January 1, 1992. ADR82/00 requires that passenger vehicles (including offroad wagons) be fitted with an engine immobiliser from July 1, 2001. Light goods vehicles (such as utes) are not required to have an immobiliser fitted, although most new vehicles do have one fitted by the manufacturer.
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