Whilst car theft continues to decline overall, with 748,000 victims of vehicle-related theft in 2015-2016 according to the Office of National Statistics, car owners still need to be vigilant.

Here, Dr Steffan George, development director of the MLA advises on the best ways to protect and secure your vehicle.

It’s vital you protect your vehicle as thoroughly as possible. Not only does improving your vehicle’s security protect you from having it broken into or stolen, and facing the costs (including losing your no claims bonus, replacement vehicle etc.), the extra measures may help reduce your insurance premium.

  1. Firstly, and it sounds obvious but, consider where you park. Ideally, you will have a secured garage in which you can keep your car at night, if you have this option, ensure an MLA-approved locksmith has carried out a security check on it. If, as it is for a lot of people, driveway parking is the most secure option, fit outdoor motion detector lighting to deter would-be criminals along with CCTV cameras. And if your only option is to park on the street make sure it’s in a well-lit area.
  1. Remove temptation for opportunist thieves. Electrical items, bags and clothing all attract thieves. If it’s a van then consider emptying the content, especially where valuable power tools are used by certain trades. Keep your car’s interior clutter free with any valuables out of sight in the boot. It’s also a good idea to empty your glove box and leave it open to show that you’ve got nothing to hide. Don’t forget to hide any signs of expensive equipment too – such as the circular suction mark that your Sat-Nav leaves on your windscreen.
  1. Fit an immobiliser. They work in a variety of ways by preventing the ignition, starter motor or fuel pump from working. However, they all do the same thing and that’s safeguard your car from theft. This is the single most cost-effective way to reduce your insurance premium, provided it is Sold Secure approved and fitted by a professional.
  1. If you haven’t got a factory-fitted alarm you can often cut the cost of your insurance by getting a car alarm fitted. The market is awash with alarms detecting everything from a window being broken to your bonnet being opened. Quality varies enormously so check with your insurer that your alarm is approved and it will earn you a discount.
  1. It sounds simple but keep an eye on your keys. If you have a spare set ensure they are kept in a safe and secure location, and if you buy a used car, ensure you get all the keys reprogrammed so previous owners can’t access it. If you do happen to lose your keys contact an MLA approved locksmith as soon as possible – they can ensure that only the keys in your possession can be used, removing all others from the motor vehicle’s database so they will no longer start the car.
  1. Wheels are easy prey for thieves especially if you have a set of alloys. Locking wheel nuts are cheap, easy to fit and an effective deterrent.
  1. Get your windows etched. Etching the last seven digits of your Vehicle Identity Number (or registration) on to your windows, headlights and mirrors means anyone trying to change your car’s identity will really have a difficult job.
  1. Invest in a steering wheel lock. Whilst potentially deemed “old hat” they provide a cheap deterrent that’s likely to put off all but the most determined criminal. Handbrake and gearstick locks are also useful. They can also put off the modern “electronic thieves” as they tend not to carry the heavy duty tools required to remove these physical locks. For vans then also consider installing additional locks to all doors along with OBD port protectors, making it difficult for thieves to plug into the electronic brain of the vehicle.
  1. Consider installing a car tracking system. If stolen, the vehicle can then be tracked and recovered. There are two main types of tracker: GPS systems can find your car while it’s at street level, and VHF systems can find your car even if it’s hidden in an underground car park or storage container.
  1. Most importantly, don’t forget to lock your car! It sounds obvious but leaving your car unlocked is easier to do than you may imagine. Always double check as sometimes blockers can be used to stop the signal being received from your remote and the vehicle is inadvertently left unlocked.

Preventing vehicle crime is all about making life more difficult for criminals, and by taking any of the measures outlined above you are reducing the risk of your car being broken into or stolen. For further advice, or to get your keys reprogrammed after purchasing a new vehicle, or having them stolen, contact your local MLA approved locksmith.