Edinburgh police warn of keyless car theft surge as criminals steal vehicles 'in seconds'

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Motorists are said to be 'terrified' as cars can be stolen 'in seconds'.

Car owners in Edinburgh are being warned about an 'emerging trend' which sees criminals steal vehicles without a key.

Motorists across the Capital and wider Lothians are said to be 'terrified' by the recent surge in key 'cloning' which allows thieves to steal vehicles 'in seconds'. Despite a reduction in overall motor thefts so far this year compared with 2022/23, regional MSP Miles Briggs has had 'more contact than ever' from locals worried about their cars.

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The Tory politician said people were increasingly worried about new technologies being exploited by criminals as well as a surge in home break-ins with the purpose of stealing cars. And a police chief in the Capital confirmed cops were cracking down on the 'new avenue' opened by technology.

There has been a rise in keyless car theftsThere has been a rise in keyless car thefts
There has been a rise in keyless car thefts

Detective Superintendent Iain Ramsay said: "A recent emerging trend in criminality is the keyless theft of motor vehicles that has resulted in easily acquired technology being used to steal high value vehicles in a matter of seconds without the need for a true key. A national response was instigated named Operation Enzone and all Scottish divisions worked closely with specialist internal departments, partners agencies and the motor industry in an effort to reduce this crime type.

"This crime type has opened a new avenue for criminality. However arrests of individuals and seizures of equipment have resulted in a downturn in keyless theft."

DSU Ramsay added that the Edinburgh Police Division had a dedicated investigation team dealing with housebreaking and subsequent vehicle theft. He also said the Capital saw a surge in motorcycle theft each summer due to influxes of European holiday-makers making their way to the north of Scotland.

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Overall motor theft numbers across Scotland steadily increased between 2021 and 2023, according to official figures. Cases in which criminals break into homes with the purpose of stealing car keys are not included in that tally and are instead recorded as housebreaking.

Mr Briggs told the Evening News: “The theft of cars from housing estates across the Lothians is becoming a real concern. I have significantly more contact from constituents about this now than at any point in the last eight years.

“People are terrified about thieves breaking into their homes to steal their cars, and feel almost powerless to do anything about it. This is about more than the theft of a car – when a family home is breached like this it is traumatic and can have a damaging impact lasting years.

“I can see from this letter that police are well aware of this increasing and dangerous trend. But it’s essential both the police and Scottish Government get together to gather statistics on how often thieves are cloning car keys, and how often they are housebreaking with the intent of stealing a vehicle.

“The data exists at some level, and it’s vital it is published so it can be fully scrutinised and inform effective policy making."

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