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Motor vehicle theft

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A car with one of its windows broken.
A car with one of its windows broken.

Motor vehicle theft (also called car theft and, in the United States, grand theft auto) is the criminal act of stealing or attempting to steal a motor vehicle. Nationwide in the United States in 2012, there were an estimated 721,053 motor vehicle thefts, or approximately 229.7 motor vehicles stolen for every 100,000 inhabitants. Property losses due to motor vehicle theft in 2012 were estimated at $4.3 billion.[1] 15,037 cars with comprehensive insurance were stolen in Germany in 2018 alone. This evens out to one stolen car every 35 minutes. Car thieves caused losses of 298 million euros.


Shattered car window glass where a parked car was stolen.
Shattered car window glass where a parked car was stolen.

Some methods used by criminals to steal motor vehicles:

  • Theft of an unattended vehicle without a key: the removal of a parked vehicle either by breaking and entry, followed by hotwiring or other tampering methods to start the vehicle, or else towing. In London, the police say that 50% of the annual 20,000 car thefts are now from high-tech OBD (Onboard Diagnostic Port) key-cloning kits (available online) and bypass immobilizer simulators.
  • Taking without owner's consent (TWOC): the unauthorized use of a car short of theft. This term is used in the United Kingdom, as is the derivative "twocking".
  • Opportunistic theft: either the removal of a vehicle that is unattended with the keys visible and sometimes the engine idling, or theft of a vehicle offered for sale during what the thief represents as a test drive. A "test drive" may also give a potential thief insight into where the vehicle keys are stored, so that the thief may return later to steal the vehicle.
  • Carjacking: taking a vehicle by force, or threat of force, against its owner or operator. In most places, this is the most serious form of vehicle theft, because assault also occurs and the method of taking over the vehicle is essentially a robbery, a more serious form of theft. In some carjackings, the operators and passengers are forced from the vehicle while the thief is driving it. In other incidents, the operator and/or passenger(s) are held hostage in it. In still others, which are less common, the assailant forces the lawful operator to drive in accordance with the demands of the assailant, who rides as a passenger.[2]
  • Fraudulent theft: illegal acquisition of a vehicle from a seller through fraudulent transfer of funds that the seller will ultimately not receive (such as by identity theft or counterfeiting a cashier's check), or through the use of a loan obtained under false pretenses. Many vehicles stolen via fraud are soon resold, by the thieves. Using this approach, the thief can quietly evade detection and continue stealing vehicles in different jurisdictions. Car rental companies and car dealerships are also defrauded by car thieves into renting, selling, financing, or leasing them cars with fake identification, checks, and credit cards. This is a common practice near national borders, where tracking devices are less effective because the victims may lack jurisdiction in the countries into which the vehicles quickly are removed.
  • Frosting: Occurring in winter, which involves an opportunist thief stealing a vehicle with its engine running whilst the owner de-ices it.
  • "Hanoi burglary", where a vehicle is taken during a house burglary, often done with the explicit purpose of obtaining car keys.[3] Named after the first police operation targeting the method.[3]
  • Joyriding: refers to driving or riding in a stolen vehicle, most commonly a car, with no particular goal other than the pleasure or thrill of doing so.
  • Keyless-Go systems theft: The risk of cars with keyless entry being stolen is high. These are cars where the owner doesn't have to even press a button to unlock as long as the key is located at a certain distance from the vehicle. In theory, the key’s signal should no longer reach the car when the driver moves away, making it impossible to unlock the car. Car thieves extend the signal from the owner's key with the help of simple signal amplifiers. and then all they have to do is open the door, hit the start button and drive away unnoticed. The car’s alarm system is totally blind to this. [4]

Auto-theft tools and paraphernalia

  • A thin metal strap or rod that slips inside a door's cavity at the base of the window, to manipulate an internal locking mechanism or linkage. A famously known tool is called the "slim jim".
  • A long rod with a hooked end that slips between door and frame, or through an opened window, that can reach and manipulate the door handle or lock from inside the vehicle cab. (A primary technique used professionally.)
  • Broken pieces of ceramic, often from a spark plug insulator, used for throwing at car door windows so they shatter quietly.
  • Specially cut or filed-down car keys, numerous tryout keys, jigglers and other lock picking tools.
  • Slide hammer puller to break apart door locks, steering-wheel locks, and ignition switch locks by forced removal of the cylinder core.
  • Multimeter or electrician's test lamp to locate a power source, for disabling alarms and jump starting vehicles.
  • Spare wires and/or a screwdriver to connect a power source to the ignition and starter wires.
  • Unusual looking electronics gear that may include; laptop or tablet, radio antennas, cables, battery packs, and other modified computer components that look homemade.
Many keyless ignition/lock cars have weak[5][6] cryptographic protection of their unlock radio signal or are susceptible to some form of record-and-playback or range extending attack. While proof-of-concept "thefts" of top-of-the-line luxury cars have been demonstrated by academic researchers using commercially available tools, such as RFID microreaders, examples of actual car theft using these methods are not very prevalent.[7]
  • A firearm, knife or other weapon used to either break a window and/or threaten a person inside the vehicle.
  • OBD key cloning kit.

Vehicles most frequently stolen

Ford Explorer with smashed window
Ford Explorer with smashed window

The makes and models of vehicles most frequently stolen vary by several factors, including region and ease of theft. In particular, the security systems in older vehicles may not be up to the same standard as current vehicles, and thieves also have longer to learn their weaknesses.[8] Scrap metal and spare part prices may also influence thieves to prefer older vehicles.[9]

In Bangkok, Thailand, the most frequently stolen vehicles are Toyota cars, Toyota Hilux and Isuzu D-Max pickups.[10][11]

In Malaysia, Proton models are the most frequently stolen vehicles, with the Proton Wira being the highest, followed by the Proton Waja and the Proton Perdana.

In the United Kingdom, the Mercedes-Benz C-Class was the most stolen car in 2018, followed by the BMW X5. Police said the growing number of vehicles featuring keyless entry technology was a contributing factor to a rising number of stolen vehicles.[12]


There are various methods of prevention to reduce the likelihood of a vehicle getting stolen. These include physical barriers, which make the effort of stealing the vehicle more difficult. Some of these include:

  • Devices used to lock a part of the vehicle necessary in its operation, such as the wheel, steering wheel or brake pedal. A commonly used device of this kind is the steering-wheel lock (also known as a crook lock or club lock).
  • Immobilisers allow the vehicle to start only if a key containing the correct chip is present in the ignition. These work by locking the steering wheel and disabling the ignition.
  • Hidden kill switches cut electric current to the ignition coil, fuel pump, or other system to frustrate or slow down a thief.
  • Deterrents tell the thief they are more likely to get caught if the vehicle is stolen. These include:
    • Car alarm systems are triggered by breaking and entry into the vehicle.
    • Microdot identification tags allow individual parts of a vehicle to be identified.
    • Signs on windows warning of other deterrents, sometimes as a bluff.
    • VIN etching may reduce the resale value of parts or increase risk of resale.

Recovery of stolen vehicles

Abandoned vehicle left in deep snow, after a joyride, Edmonton, Alberta
Abandoned vehicle left in deep snow, after a joyride, Edmonton, Alberta

Recovery rates for stolen vehicles vary, depending on the effort a jurisdiction's police department puts into recovery, and devices a vehicle has installed to assist in the process.

Police departments use various methods of recovering stolen vehicles, such as random checks of vehicles that come in front of a patrol unit, checks of all vehicles parked along a street or within a parking lot using automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) or keeping a watchlist of all the vehicles reported stolen by their owners. Police departments also receive tips on the location of stolen vehicles through[13] or[14] in the United Kingdom.

In the UK, the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) provides information on the registration of vehicles to certain companies for consumer protection and anti-fraud purposes. The information may be added by companies with details from the police, finance and insurance companies. Such companies include Carfax[15] in the US, AutoCheck[16] and CarCheck[17] in the United Kingdom, Gapless[18] in Germany and Cartell in Ireland, which then provide online car check services for the public and motor trade.[19]

Vehicle tracking systems, such as LoJack, automatic vehicle location, or OnStar, may enable the location of the vehicle to be tracked by local law enforcement or a private company. Other security devices such as microdot identification allow individual parts of a vehicle to also be identified and potentially returned.


Motor vehicle thefts, by country

Criminologist Frank E. Hagan wrote that, "Probably the most important factor in the rate of motor vehicle theft is the number of motor vehicles per capita in the country."[20] Using data supplied by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime,[21] the estimated worldwide auto-theft rate is 65.8 per 100,000 residents. However, data is not available for all countries, and this crime rate reflects only the most recent year of reported data. For the 4,429,167,344 people these countries represent, there were a total 2,915,575 cars stolen. Uruguay has the highest auto-theft rate for any fairly large country in the world, at 437.6 per 100,000 residents in 2012. However Bermuda in its most recent year of reported auto-thefts (2004), reported a rate of 1324.0 per 100,000 people. But the population of Bermuda (65,000) is smaller than many cities in countries such as the USA and Canada. Some cities have higher rates than Bermuda, such as Newark, New Jersey, which had an auto-theft rate of 1420.6 in 2012.[22]

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime notes "that when using the figures, any cross-national comparisons should be conducted with caution because of the differences that exist between the legal definitions of offenses in countries, or the different methods of offense counting and recording". Crime rates in certain neighborhoods or areas in each country may also be higher or lower than the nationwide rate. Furthermore, because the vehicle theft rates shown in the table below are "per 100,000 population" -- not per 100,000 vehicles -- countries with low vehicle ownership rates will appear to have lower theft rates even if the theft rate per vehicle is relatively high.

Motor vehicle thefts by country[21]
Country Motor vehicle thefts Rate per 100,000 population Year
Uruguay 14,858 437.6 2012
New Zealand 17,807 399.3 2012
Bahamas 1,330 363.1 2011
Italy 196,589 322.9 2012
Malaysia 82,287 312.6 2006
Sweden 28,926 304.1 2012
Greece 31,166 280.2 2012
France 178,200 278.7 2012
Israel 20,974 278.1 2011
Maldives 813 259.0 2008
Australia 58,573 254.1 2012
United States of America 721,053 227.1 2012
Canada 77,939 223.7 2012
Chile 33,014 189.0 2012
Denmark 10,351 184.9 2012
Ireland 8,392 183.4 2012
Mexico 208,491 172.5 2012
Finland 8,815 163.0 2012
Cyprus 1,811 160.4 2012
Norway 7,953 159.3 2012
Argentina 62,044 156.4 2008
South Africa 141,381 216.4 2017
Belgium 17,126 154.8 2012
Portugal 15,900 149.9 2012
Spain 67,933 145.3 2012
United Kingdom (England and Wales) 79,829 142.4 2012
Iran (Islamic Republic of) 94,413 136.2 2004
Netherlands 19,930 119.2 2012
United Kingdom (Northern Ireland) 2,101 116.0 2012
United Kingdom (Scotland) 5,731 108.2 2012
Czech Republic 11,127 104.4 2012
Switzerland 8,129 101.6 2012
Bahrain 1,094 98.0 2008
Brazil 185,288 93.3 2012
Costa Rica 4,335 90.2 2012
Iceland 290 89.0 2012
Germany 70,511 85.2 2012
Trinidad and Tobago 1,063 79.5 2012
Hungary 7,740 77.6 2012
Dominican Republic 7,930 77.2 2012
Luxembourg 398 77.1 2011
Malta 306 71.5 2012
Jordan 4,908 70.0 2012
Colombia 31,862 66.8 2012
Paraguay 4,390 65.6 2012
Japan 80,539 63.3 2012
Lithuania 1,724 56.9 2012
Bolivia (Plurinational State of) 5,613 53.5 2012
Austria 4,446 52.5 2012
Ecuador 7,096 50.6 2006
Lebanon 1,971 48.3 2006
Estonia 620 48.0 2012
Peru 13,787 47.6 2009
Slovakia 2,546 46.8 2012
Brunei Darussalam 169 45.1 2006
Latvia 910 44.2 2012
Poland 16,230 42.5 2012
Honduras 3,363 42.4 2012
Bulgaria 3,082 42.3 2012
Mauritius 504 40.8 2011
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines 43 39.3 2011
Russian Federation 50,279 35.1 2011
Bosnia and Herzegovina 1,328 34.6 2012
Kazakhstan 5,345 32.8 2012
Croatia 1,361 31.6 2012
Morocco 10,221 31.4 2012
Belize 92 29.1 2011
Serbia 2,761 28.9 2012
Thailand 19,149 28.8 2010
Swaziland 307 28.0 2004
Slovenia 539 26.1 2012
Turkey 17,988 25.6 2008
Egypt 20,231 25.5 2011
Barbados 68 24.0 2012
Guatemala 3,309 23.7 2009
Lesotho 437 22.0 2009
Albania 677 21.4 2012
Macedonia 371 17.6 2012
Indonesia 41,816 16.9 2012
Botswana 327 16.5 2011
Belarus 1,437 15.1 2009
Qatar 131 13.5 2006
El Salvador 838 13.3 2012
Republic of Korea 6,033 12.3 2012
India 147,475 12.2 2010
United Arab Emirates 1,093 11.9 2012
Singapore 55 1.1 2012
Algeria 3,778 9.8 2012
Ukraine 4,278 9.3 2010
Côte d'Ivoire 1,593 8.7 2008
Jamaica 236 8.5 2012
Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of China 600 8.4 2012
Suriname 40 8.1 2004
Palestine 286 8.0 2005
Romania 1,627 7.5 2012
Panama 274 7.2 2012
Montenegro 43 6.9 2012
Oman 177 6.8 2008
Nicaragua 388 6.7 2010
Mongolia 178 6.5 2011
Guyana 48 6.0 2012
Kyrgyzstan 290 5.3 2012
Yemen 1,012 4.6 2009
Syrian Arab Republic 912 4.5 2008
Sri Lanka 822 4.2 2004
Zimbabwe 444 3.5 2008
Republic of Moldova 116 3.3 2012
Uganda 1,121 3.3 2010
Kenya 1,199 2.8 2012
Armenia 61 2.1 2012
Philippines 1,642 1.7 2011
Cameroon 316 1.7 2007
Kuwait 45 1.6 2009
Georgia 43 1.0 2007
Nigeria 1,239 0.7 2012
Bangladesh 1,061 0.7 2006
Azerbaijan 60 0.6 2012
Tajikistan 48 0.6 2011
Guinea 49 0.5 2008
Nepal 17 0.1 2006
Turkmenistan 2 0.0 2006
Grenada 0 0.0 2012
São Tomé and Príncipe 0 0.0 2011


  1. ^ "Motor Vehicle Theft". Retrieved 6 May 2017.
  2. ^ "FindLaw for Legal Professionals - Case Law, Federal and State Resources, Forms, and Code". Retrieved 2 January 2014.
  3. ^ a b "Hanoi-style car theft gang jailed". BBC. 30 June 2005. Retrieved 13 May 2019.
  4. ^ "Car theft is a growing problem. Learn how to protect yourself". 2020-03-04. Retrieved 2020-03-09.
  5. ^ Biham, Eli; Dunkelman, Orr; Indesteege, Sebastiaan; Keller, Nathan; Preneel, Bart (2008), How To Steal Cars — A Practical Attack on KeeLoq, Eurocrypt 2008
  6. ^ Bono, Stephen C.; Green, Matthew; Stubblefield, Adam; Juels, Ari; Rubin, Aviel D.; Szydlo, Michael (2005), Security Analysis of a Cryptographically-Enabled RFID Device, 14th USENIX Security Symposium
  7. ^ Lambert, Fred (10 August 2018). "Stolen Tesla vehicles in the US have almost all been recovered: 112 out of 115". Electrek.
  8. ^ "Car Theft Stats" (PDF). Gold Coast City Council. Retrieved 27 August 2012.
  9. ^ "Thefts of older cars driven by rise in scrap metal price". Fairfax Media. 25 March 2010. Archived from the original on 19 December 2013. Retrieved 27 August 2012.
  10. ^ รู้ยัง? ...5 อันดับรถยนต์ และ 10 สถานที่ ที่ถูกขโมยมากที่สุดในกรุงเทพฯ และโอกาสได้คืน !! (in Thai). Matichon Online. 8 July 2015. Archived from the original on 17 July 2015. Retrieved 17 July 2015.
  11. ^ 5 อันดับ รถยนต์ที่ถูกขโมยมากที่สุดในกรุงเทพฯ (in Thai). Thai Rath Online. 10 July 2015. Retrieved 17 July 2015.
  12. ^ "PROTON HOT WITH THIEVES". Archived from the original on December 5, 2009. Retrieved 2010-01-07.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
  13. ^ "". Retrieved 2014-01-02.
  14. ^ "". Retrieved 2017-01-12.
  15. ^ "". Retrieved 2014-01-02.
  16. ^ "". Retrieved 2014-01-02.
  17. ^ "". Retrieved 2014-01-02.
  18. ^ "". Retrieved 2020-03-09.
  19. ^ Car check
  20. ^ Hagan, Frank E. (2010), Crime Types and Criminals, SAGE Publications, p. 157, ISBN 1412964792
  21. ^ a b Crime and criminal justice statistics, used table: motor vehicle theft. Retrieved 24 May 2014
  22. ^ "FBI Crime 2012". Retrieved 31 May 2014.

External links

This page was last edited on 8 July 2020, at 15:07
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