Car theft in SA three times higher than the UK

Time of article published Mar 20, 2005

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Midrand - South Africa's vehicle theft levels were three times that of England and Wales, which had the highest theft ratio in Western Europe, said Gareth Jones, a director of UK-based security firm SBD.

Jones said England and Wales had a theft ratio of 2.6 percent per 1 000 vehicles based on the 2 000 international victimisation crime survey of car owners.

South Africa was not included in the survey of 17 countries but it had a theft rate of 7.5 percent, Jones told the British Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders seminar hosted by UK Trade and Investment this week.

Jones also highlighted some problems with vehicle tracking systems, which had been around for 10 years and had moved from short-range homing devices relying on the police to GSM communications-based satellite supported by secure operating centres.

Enhanced applications were available as part of new telematics systems, which provided in-car navigation.

However, Jones said, the roll-out of these systems had not been so successful in Europe and believed insurance companies would "sit back and wait to see how they perform" before changing their offering on premium discounts.

This was because the customer value proposition was unclear and the benefits undefined.

He added that a range of "jammer" products were available on the internet for about £100 (R1 172), which would stop the tracker system from transmitting, while the global positioning standard receiver had to "see sky" to operate.

"These are two fundamental problems and generic weaknesses that need to be addressed if vehicle tracking is to be more widely used," he said.

The driving factors to improve vehicle security were not necessarily to deal with theft but to lower insurance premiums for owners.

He said spiralling car theft in Europe in the early 1990s had resulted in radical insurance charges.

Vehicle theft had doubled in Germany with the collapse of the Berlin wall in 1993 and Allianz Insurers had reduced payouts on vehicles without an immobiliser, amounting to 90 percent of the value.

Joyriding was also rife in the UK and high-risk vehicles were refused insurance and it was the responsibility of vehicle manufacturers to improve the quality of security systems in vehicles.

"There was a 54 percent reduction in vehicle theft in the UK between 1993 to 2003, which was purely the result of immobilisers and some legislation introduced that required all cars in the European Community to have immobilisers fitted to a set standard.

This had taken off joyriding theft and we were left with organised crime."

Jones said there was a 60 percent reduction in vehicle theft in Germany in the same period and similar reductions in other European countries.

Vehicle security had improved over the years but theft methods, particularly by organised crime, had also evolved.

Key theft and carjacking was now the number one problem facing vehicles less than six years old in the UK.

He said biometrics, which used the iris, voice or fingerprints to identify vehicle owners, was in its infancy and was expensive.

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