IS your car one of the latest, with keyless, electronic locking?

If so — and especially if you live in the UK — you’d better pop outside and see if it’s still there.

Britain’s Home Office has found a disturbing rise in vehicle theft, with 36 of its 43 police forces reporting increases.

Staffordshire is suffering the biggest spike, with thefts rising a huge 38 per cent.

What’s interesting is there were very few cases of the old brick through a window and hot-wiring.

No, today’s car thief is a sophisticated sod who targets only keyless cars.

Criminals using electronic gadgets bought on the internet can duplicate the signal of a remote key for a vehicle, with the key inside a house, enter the car and drive away — without ever having to set foot in their premises or raise suspicion.

One of the most popular places for crim activity is railway carparks, where the Home Office says thefts leapt by 217 per cent compared to the figures of five years ago.

Volume of vehicle thefts is still highest in England’s two largest cities.

Four in 10 nicked cars in England and Wales were reported by the Metropolitan Police (30,752) and West Midlands Police (11,140).

What’s most disconcerting about the figures is that police have failed to recover more than half of the vehicles stolen from owners.

Just 45 per cent of cars stolen between 2009 and 2018 were traced and reclaimed by UK forces.

Merseyside Police had the best recovery rates of 75 per cent, while West Midlands had the lowest with fewer than 12 per cent of vehicles stolen from the area being found.

Motorway.co.uk director Alex Buttle said the strain on police forces was building, partially due to budget cuts that had sent police numbers plummeting.

A near 20 per cent drop in the number of police officers in the UK means the likelihood of a stolen vehicle being recovered is less than half.

“These troubling car crime figures suggest that over-stretched and under-resourced police forces are struggling to curb the rising number of car crimes, and in particular keyless car thefts,” Buttle said.

“Advancements in anti-theft systems do not seem to be discouraging thieves, who are using a variety of ever-more sophisticated techniques to break into and start cars.

“The 21st century thief isn’t using a hammer to smash a window and hotwire a car. They’re armed with wireless transmitters, signal jammers and key programming devices, and can open car doors and start engines in seconds.”

Things aren’t quite as bad in Australia. In fact, car theft is on the decline.

Police recover about 70 per cent of stolen vehicles within a week.

It’s a different story for motorbikes, though, with more than half (53 per cent) never seen again.

Insurance companies say the decline is due to improvements in car security technology – but how long before local crims find the same electronic tools of their trade on the internet?

Meanwhile, they’re still active, targeting older vehicles. Average age of the stolen cars is 11 years, and guess which brand they mainly go for?

Not Lamborghini.

It’s the Australian-made Holden Commodore leading the ‘most sought after’, or, more likely, the ‘most easily swiped’ charts.

Next up is Falcon, then Toyota HiLux, Nissan Pulsar and Toyota Corolla.

The picture is certain to change with the demise of the local car manufacturing industry and who knows what the next most vulnerable brand will be?

Our tip: opt for a car with manual transmission.

You can even buy decals that you can stick on the boot or windows of your car, identifying it as a stick shift — which might be a better deterrent than electronic security.

Electronics can be overcome, but three pedals and a gearstick offer a far greater challenge.

keyless - car thief 01 - Keyless entry (you need a sentry)

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Buys

Bill Buys, probably Australia’s longest-serving motoring writer, has been at his craft for more than five decades. Athough motoring has always been in his DNA, he was also night crime reporter, foreign page editor and later chief reporter of the famed Rand Daily Mail. He’s twice been shot at, attacked by a rhinoceros and had several chilling experiences in aircraft. His experience includes stints in traffic law enforcement, motor racing and rallying and writing for a variety of local and international publications. He has covered countless events, ranging from world motor shows and Formula 1 Grands Prix to Targa tarmac and round-the-houses meetings. A motoring tragic, he has owned more than 90 cars. Somewhat of a nostalgic, he has a special interest in classic cars. He is the father of Targa star Robert Buys, who often adds his expertise to Bill’s reviews.