Police warn of rise in keyless car thefts across South as criminals get more sophisticated

ITV News Meridian's Wesley Smith reports on the recent spike in thefts

High value keyless cars are being taken from driveways, as police warn of a spate of thefts across the South.

One owner from Hampshire has spoken of her shock as she watched CCTV of her car being stolen from outside her home - even though she had the ignition key inside.

Criminals used a 'relay' device that tricked her vehicle into thinking the genuine key was being used to open the car door.

Thieves only need to be within a few metres of a key fob to capture its electronic signal.

This means that even if a car and home are secure, a vehicle can still be unlocked, started and stolen.


Owner Wendy Edwards-Johnson from Farlington in Portsmouth says it happened so quickly and was a big shock.

She said: "I physically felt sick and the main reason is that he was that close to my door.

"It unnerved me and he's taken something that's mine.

"Me and my husband worked hard for what we've got. We moved the keys purposely to the back of the house and that night I got up at 4 o'clock in the morning and the car was gone.

In Kennington, near Oxford, a family Mercedes was stolen with the buggies and child car seats still inside.

Ford mustang taken from driveway

In a neighbouring street on the same night, a Ford Mustang was taken from a driveway as criminals by-passed the electronic fob left in a back room.

Owner Vaughan Bayliss-Jones said he thought he'd done everything possible to protect the car.

He added: "I looked out and saw no car, so I said to Steve, my husband, where's my car gone?

"He said, don't be so silly, it's outside, I went, no, the car's gone. You don't believe it.

"I'd saved up for years to get this car, it's my pride and joy, something she was going to enjoy in the summer when we'd have the roof down because it was a convertible, so it's gutting, heart-wrenching."

Automobile Association headquarters

Motoring organisations say the criminals are getting ever more sophisticated.

Jack Cousens from the Basingstoke-based Automobile Association said: "People are relaying the signal from the key onto the car, tricking it into thinking it's next to the car unlocking and driving it off the driveway.

"We're certainly seeing thieves being more hi-tech and even converting old game boys into makeshift ghost keys to  take cars off driveways.

Police are urging keyless car owners to take steps to protect their vehicles by using steering locks, immobilisers or bollards on the drive.

How can you protect your car from keyless theft?

  • When at home keep your car key (and the spare) well away from the car.

  • Put the keys in a screened or signal-blocking pouch, such as a Faraday Bag.

  • Re-programme your keys if you buy a second hand car.

  • Turn off wireless signals on your fob when it's not being used.

  • Fit tested and approved in-car security locks, such as a steering wheel lock. Some vehicles can have a pin lock fitted to the steering wheel that may prevent it from being driven away. Please check with your manufacturer.

  • Tracking devices can help track down your vehicle and the perpetrator, should it be taken. Ensure it is fitted out of view.