‘PROTECT YOUR CARS LIKE YOUR HOME’ – POLICE / OVERHAUL OF RAIL PENALTY FARE APPEALS PROPOSED / BUS STRIKE: BORIS ‘DODGING THE ISSUE’ SAYS VAL SHAWCROSS
‘PROTECT YOUR CARS LIKE YOUR HOME’ – POLICE
Police officers are out in force urging drivers to “protect their vehicle like they would their home”, in a week of coordinated activity to tackle keyless vehicle theft, which launched on Tuesday (February 3rd).
The campaign, codenamed Operation Endeavour, follows an eight per cent increase in vehicle theft across London in the last year, believed to be the result of organised criminals increasingly targeting keyless or remotely controlled vehicles to make money quickly.
Neighbourhood policing teams in every borough will hold local crime prevention events, targeted patrols and will be leafleting in hot-spot areas, to raise awareness amongst drivers.
In some boroughs, officers will be setting up check-and-advise points, where they can stop vehicles to check that they are being driven by the legitimate drivers, and provide owners with advice on protecting their vehicle.
The advice includes:
Use a steering wheel lock or a gear stick lock.
Consider getting an on-board diagnostics lock (OBD) professionally fitted.
Park your vehicle in a well-lit area, a garage, a staffed car park or in an area covered by CCTV.
Double-check the vehicle is locked when leaving it even for a moment.
Consider purchasing a tracking device to increase the chances of the vehicle being traced if it is stolen.
Police say last year more than 6,000 cars and vans across London were stolen without the owners’ keys. That is an average of 17 vehicles a day, and represents 42 per cent of all thefts of cars and vans.
“The majority of such thefts appear to be the result of organised criminals using key-programming devices to create duplicate keys for vehicles, but it can include towing vehicles away” say police.
“Thieves use a device which bypasses the vehicle’s electronic information as the owner locks it, or they break into the vehicle and connect a device to the OBD (On-board diagnostics) port, downloading the vehicle’s information onto a blank key in a matter of seconds.
“The new key is then compatible with the vehicle, so it disables the alarm and the vehicle can simply be driven away.
“The vehicles are targeted based on the desirability of their parts and range from prestige cars to vans. “The two types of vehicle most stolen using this method in 2014 were vans.
“Intelligence suggests that the criminals drive the vehicles into the Home Counties where most are stripped down into their component parts and then shipped abroad. “They are sold on as far afield as Africa, where particular types of vehicle are in high demand.
Det. Chief Supt Carl Bussey, lead for Operation Endeavour, said: “This week is about creating awareness amongst drivers and showing them how quickly and simply they can reduce the risk of their vehicles being stolen.
“We believe that organised crime groups using this technique are responsible for the theft of thousands of vehicles in London. “Many of those that we have already arrested in connection with keyless vehicle theft have previous links to other types of serious crime.
“These people currently view keyless vehicle theft as a low – risk, high – return crime, with the most valued motor engines fetching anything up to £1,000 when sold on the black market, and entire vehicles making up to £10,000. “This is money that goes back into committing more crime and harming the communities that we live.
“Last year alone we arrested almost 1,000 people for vehicle theft, and with more co-ordinated activity we aim to reduce vehicle theft by 20 per cent by 2016.
“We know that criminals are targeting all sorts of vehicles – not just the most expensive – so if you value your vehicle, then it is worth investing time and money on extra security.”
Mike Hawes, chief executive of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), said: “Vehicle manufacturers invest billions of pounds to keep vehicles as secure as possible, and work tirelessly to stay one step ahead of criminals.
“As a result, overall thefts in the UK have decreased by more than 75 per cent over the past ten years and continues to fall.
“The challenge remains that some forms of keyless theft involve equipment legitimately available to workshops for routine repairs and servicing, and a small minority of individuals are exploiting this to access vehicles illegally.
“The SMMT and vehicle manufacturers continue to call for stronger safeguards within government regulations to ensure this equipment does not fall into the wrong hands. “The law must also provide severe penalties to act as a deterrent.”
Vehicles owners can find information and advice about keyless vehicle theft on the new Metropolitan Police Service website. (Source: Metropolitan Police press release.)
OVERHAUL OF RAIL PENALTY FARE APPEALS PROPOSED .
The government has launched a consultation on proposals which they say will make the rail penalty fare system fairer for passengers.
A Department for Transport spokesperson said: “Penalty fares can be charged by train operators if a passenger is found to be travelling without a valid ticket. “A process already exists to enable those who think they have been charged incorrectly or unfairly to make appeals through one of two appeal bodies.”
Rail minister Claire Perry said: “More people are using our railways than ever, and passengers rightly expect that we take strong action against fare dodgers. “But passengers penalised through no fault of their own must be treated fairly.
“That’s why we have listened to passenger groups and are working with the rail industry to improve the system so it is clearer, fairer and easier to use.”
Currently passengers can appeal either through the Independent Revenue Collection and Support (IRCAS) or the Independent Penalty Fares Appeals Service (IPFAS).
The DfT say the measures for public consultation include:
requiring train operators to remove the reference to criminal sanctions in letters chasing penalty fare payment. Government will provide new guidance to train operators to make clear that the threat of criminal sanctions for non-payment of a penalty fare, which is a civil offence, is not appropriate. Criminal sanctions will still apply in suspected cases of deliberate fare evasion
requiring all appeal bodies to adopt the ‘stop the clock’ measure. This means that those appealing do not have to pay the penalty fare until a final ruling has been reached.
The 21-day deadline for payment will be suspended when an appeal is received by the appeals body, and will only resume once a letter notifying the outcome has been issued. Only one of the two existing appeals bodies already uses ‘stop the clock’, say the DfT.
requiring all appeals bodies to be independent of transport operators and owning groups. Currently, the IPFAS is owned by the Go-Ahead group, which runs Southeastern. IPFAS will need to be separated from its current owner to continue to consider appeals, say the DfT.
creating an independent appeals process to make final decisions. This will look at cases which have been considered twice by the appeals bodies and remain unresolved. This would give passengers further assurance their case has been fully and independently reviewed
regular ‘health checks’ of the system by government. The DfT will ask train operators and appeals bodies to supply penalty fare and appeals information regularly to ensure that they are complying with the code of practice.
The public consultation runs to 27 April 2015. (Source: DfT press release.)
BUS STRIKE: BORIS ‘DODGING THE ISSUE’ SAYS VAL SHAWCROSS
Commenting on the strike by bus workers, London Assembly Labour group transport spokeswoman Val Shawcross said:
“The dispute is deeply regrettable. “Despite millions of Londoners being affected by the strike the Mayor is refusing to step up to the plate and negotiate.
“We need to see the Mayor intervening to get staff and employers around the negotiating table, whilst all sides may not get everything they want, accepting there is a legitimate issue and opening a dialogue is the first step to resolving this dispute. Boris’ dodging of the issue only serves to extend the disruption for passengers.
“At the very least the Mayor should consider stepping in to set a minimum levels for bus driver salaries, raising the standard of living for the most badly paid drivers and ensuring the people who keep our capital moving are paid enough to live in the city.”
Val Shawcross is the Labour London Assembly member for Lambeth and Southwark. (Source: GLA Labour party press release)..