Thieves target older cars as alarms get better

January 22nd, 2009 - 9:51 am ICT by IANS  

Berlin, Jan 22 (DPA) Electronic security systems have made modern cars so impregnable that car thieves are concentrating on outdated, less well-protected models.According to figures from the German Insurance Company Federation in Berlin, a total of 16,502 cars were stolen in the country in 2007, a decline of 13 percent compared to the previous year. Ten years ago more than three times as many cars were stolen and 15 years ago the number was six times as high.

So far so good, yet this is only one side of the coin. Top of the list of the 15 most stolen vehicles are only a handful of recent models. Indeed 11 of the 15 “favourites” are cars which have been around for a decade.

The diesel-powered Mercedes E-Class E 250D occupies fourth place followed by the BMW 725 TDS - another 1990’s generation limousine - and the four-wheel-drive Golf IV 2.8-litre Synchro.

Experts say the improvements in car security are only one reason for the sea change. The average age of cars in use on German roads is rising which leads to a stronger demand for spare parts. Many cars are stolen for that reason alone and broken up for their components.

Added to that, German cars are not only popular at home. “The ones high up in the stolen car statistics are sought-after models abroad,” said Hubert Paulus who works for the technical centre of Germany’s giant ADAC car club in Landsberg in Bavaria.

According to Paulus, if a crook really wants to break into a car he may be slowed but not deterred by conventional theft prevention equipment such as a steering wheel lock or a device which prevent the accelerator pedal or gearshift from being moved.

Paulus recommends installing a more sophisticated car alarm. “A thief who targets an older vehicle will not assume that it has been retro-fitted with an upgraded alarm system.” If the criminal sets off the alarm he will probably flee and look for another car to steal.

Attracting attention is something thieves obviously like to avoid and Rainer Hillgaertner of the Stuttgart-based Auto Club Europa (ACE) points out that simple wheel immobilisers, which are also used for parking enforcement, can act as an effective deterrent.

A hidden switch, enabling the owner to cut off the petrol flow before leaving the car is another low-cost solution to the theft problem, said Paulus. “If the car fails to start the average thief will simply abandon it and look elsewhere,” said the expert.

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