Lock it and lose it anyway? Thieves using new tech to steal vehicles

The number of cars stolen in London is likely to be high again in 2018, and thieves are using new technology to take off with your vehicle.

Auto theft rose significantly from 2016 to 2017 and is on-par to be high again this year in London

Thieves have been known to use technology to intercept keyless fob signals to steal cars. (Shutterstock)

The number of cars stolen in London is likely to be high again in 2018, and thieves are using new technology to get passed high-tech locks. 

In early December, a family in Summerside said they came home to notice one of their cars wasn't in the driveway. Surveillance footage shows a thief approaching the vehicle, holding something up to the door before opening it, getting in and eventually driving off.

Police told the homeowners the thief likely used a device to steal the signal from their key fob. 

It's becoming more commonplace, said Det. Sgt. Ryan Scrivens, head of the London police general investigations division, though the devices are expensive. 

"The devices almost act as a booster. Someone approaches a vehicle, activates their booster and tries to get a signal," he said. "The vehicle believes the fob is much closer than it actually is and the thief can go in and drive away." 

The keyless entry fobs are common in newer and higher-end cars. 

Scrivens said leaving fobs farther away from the front door or in a metal box can help prevent thieves from stealing the signal. 

Car thefts increasing

There were more than 1,200 vehicles stolen in 2017, and that number will likely be the same by the time 2018 totals are calculated, police data shows. 

In 2016, the number of vehicle thefts was 814. 

London's increase in auto thefts mirrors an Ontario and national trend. 

But car theft is still often a crime of opportunity and can be prevented with simple tricks like locking your car and keeping valuables hidden out of sight, said Scrivens. 

"Vehicles that are stolen are generally used in other crimes, or, depending on the value, shipped oversees or sent to a chop shop," Scrivens said. 

If a vehicle is stolen, report it to police, Scrivens said. 

Protect your car from theft: 

  • Don't leave anything valuable in the vehicle
  • Park in a well lit area or a garage
  • Make sure the car is locked and the windows are up
  • If you can, use a steering wheel locking device
  • Keep fobs far from the door, in a metal container 
  • Report suspicious vehicles or activity