WHAT CAN YOU DO?

Street Machine - - Security -

AC­CORD­ING to Ray Car­roll of the NMVTRC, the sin­gle most ef­fec­tive thing you can do to stop your car be­com­ing a statis­tic is to fit an im­mo­biliser. These are sim­ple gad­gets that dis­able the ig­ni­tion, fuel or starter mo­tor, or all three. “An af­ter­mar­ket im­mo­biliser is far and away the most ef­fec­tive method of re­duc­ing theft of older cars,” he says. “They cost be­tween $200 and $250, and we rec­om­mend them above and be­yond any­thing else you can fit or do.”

But, per­haps sur­pris­ingly, the next-best pro­tec­tion is a whole lot less high-tech. “Don’t dis­re­gard the good old-fash­ioned steer­ing lock,” Ray told us. But there’s a catch: “Don’t bother un­less you’re go­ing to ac­tu­ally fit the lock. In nine out of 10 thefts we’ve looked into, the steer­ing lock has been sit­ting on the back seat.”

Elec­tronic track­ers are an­other form of high-tech pro­tec­tion and, while they won’t stop the car go­ing miss­ing in the first place, they do mean that when the alarm is raised, the stolen car can be tracked in real time. The cost of track­ing tech­nol­ogy has come down a lot in re­cent years. For ex­am­ple, Aussie GPS track­ing com­pany Pro-tekt of­fers de­vices re­tail­ing from $195, plus sub­scrip­tions start­ing at $12.95 per month. The de­vices fea­ture a sim­ple four-wire hook-up, and al­low you to pin­point the lo­ca­tion of your ve­hi­cle via an app on your phone at any time. It also pro­vides you with the route his­tory of your ve­hi­cle, and al­lows you to re­ceive no­ti­fi­ca­tions when your ve­hi­cle leaves a pre-de­ter­mined ‘Geo-limit’. There’s a power cut-off alarm if the bat­tery has been dis­con­nected, but the de­vice has an in­ter­nal back-up bat­tery so it will con­tinue to up­load and store new lo­ca­tion in­for­ma­tion to se­cure servers, and can be ac­cessed in real time 24/7. You can also re­motely ac­ti­vate a 115db siren for au­di­ble lo­ca­tion.

You can also be proac­tive for no money. Park off the street. Be care­ful where you park your car in pub­lic places. If it’s af­ter dark, park un­der a light. Be aware of cars fol­low­ing you home each night and don’t leave your ig­ni­tion key some­where ob­vi­ous like the top of the mi­crowave or a row of hooks with ‘KEYS’ writ­ten on it.

At home, you can in­stall CCTV sys­tems, and many ex­perts reckon a lock­able bol­lard or some other type of phys­i­cal bar­rier is good prac­tice. Not all bol­lards are cre­ated equal – you can buy them on­line for as lit­tle as $150, but they’ll only be as good as the pad­lock you use to se­cure them. Beefier, pro­fes­sion­ally in­stalled bol­lards with lock­ing sleeves cost sig­nif­i­cantly more, but it’s still cheap in­sur­ance.

Speak­ing of which, don’t for­get that in­sur­ance poli­cies can dif­fer greatly, so read the fine print. Also, as the value of your car rises each year (not an un­com­mon thing these days) you need to talk with your in­surer and agree on a value that you’re both happy with.

And if the un­think­able does hap­pen and your car goes miss­ing, Chris Bori­bon from Shan­nons reck­ons the best thing you can do is to alert any­body who might care. “Hit the clubs and so­cial me­dia and get it out there. It’s a very ef­fec­tive ap­proach.”

But one type of car that is still over­rep­re­sented in the stats is older cars. The sort of cars we like. Ac­cord­ing to the NMVTRC’S ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor, Ray Car­roll, older pas­sen­ger ve­hi­cles (any­thing pre-july 2001, ac­cord­ing to the NMVTRC) ex­pe­ri­ence twice the rate of theft per thou­sand cars com­pared with the stats for all cars in Aus­tralia. Sim­ple maths means that newer cars, of which there are more out there, are the most of­ten stolen, and it also means that some­thing like seven out of ev­ery 10 cars stolen in Aus­tralia to­day is taken with the ig­ni­tion key. “That’s why we’re see­ing home in­va­sions these days,” Ray says. “New cars are now so se­cure, you can’t take them with­out the key.”

But that’s cold com­fort for us, ob­vi­ously. Put sim­ply, there’s just not enough (if any) anti-theft tech­nol­ogy in older cars to even slow the bad­dies down. If you’ve got a screw­driver and a coat-hanger, you’ve got all you need to re­lieve the le­gal owner of his or her prop­erty. That’s be­cause Aus­tralian car­mak­ers only re­ally got se­ri­ous about stop­ping car theft some­time back in the 1990s. The turn­ing point is gen­er­ally re­garded as Oc­to­ber 1992, when a facelift to the Ford Fal­con EB in­cluded the lo­cally de­vel­oped Smart­lock sys­tem. Us­ing an elec­tronic key with rolling codes, the sys­tem turned out to be about the best in the world at the time and forced the other lo­cals to fol­low suit with sim­i­lar sys­tems aimed at elim­i­nat­ing hotwiring. How good was Smart­lock? Well, the South Aus­tralia po­lice let an ex­pe­ri­enced light-fin­gered crew loose on a Fal­con to see how long it took them to get the thing started. The state’s finest car thieves fi­nally went home af­ter four days. On the bus, too, be­cause they didn’t get that Fal­con go­ing.

Ray Car­roll adds that even those early im­mo­biliser sys­tems had built-in de­feat sys­tems; newer im­mo­bilis­ers (which be­came manda­tory in all new Aussiede­liv­ered cars in 2001) don’t. Of course, any im­mo­biliser is bet­ter than none, but prior to that, you were kind of on your own. In re­al­ity, pinch­ing some­thing like a pre-vr Holden Com­modore is not re­ally much more dif­fi­cult that us­ing the old nail­file trick to turn the ig­ni­tion bar­rel in your mum’s EH while she was at bingo. Or was that just me?

But it’s not all bad news for old cars – as in, col­lectible and clas­sic old cars. Ac­cord­ing to Chris Bori­bon of Shan­nons, which in­sures a big chunk of this coun­try’s clas­sic cars, bikes and trucks, theft of 1930s and 1940s (and older) ve­hi­cles is pretty much un­heard of. That’s largely be­cause there’s a smaller mar­ket for them and no real mid­night spares mar­ket for the parts they could pro­vide. And let’s face it, most kids look­ing for a joyride aren’t go­ing to pick a car that’s flat-knacker at 90km/h, are they? Nor are they go­ing to have the first idea of how to start, let alone drive, a Model T Ford.

OLDER PAS­SEN­GER VE­HI­CLES EX­PE­RI­ENCE TWICE THE RATE OF THEFT PER THOU­SAND CARS COM­PARED WITH THE STATS FOR ALL CARS IN AUS­TRALIA

But even if you’re driv­ing some­thing lo­cally made from the 1960s, 70s or 80s, the theft stats prob­a­bly shouldn’t leave you ly­ing awake at night, star­ing at the ceil­ing. Ray Car­roll reck­ons that thefts of re­ally valu­able clas­sics like GTHOS and first-gen Monaros are al­most un­heard of. “It would be very rare for a GT Fal­con to be stolen now,” he says. “We hear about it, but it’s al­most never. If it’s a rare and valu­able car, the thieves can’t get rid of it. Too many peo­ple would go: ‘Where the hell did that come from?’ and it would be game over.”

Chris Bori­bon of Shan­nons agrees: “When a rare [clas­sic] car like that goes miss­ing, they’re too hot a prop­erty to do any­thing with. In fact, those cars are very likely to be re­cov­ered; all of a sud­den it’s all over the news, the heat’s sud­denly on the thieves and the car gets aban­doned some­where.”

Less in­her­ently valu­able older cars aren’t al­ways so lucky. Ray says the ma­jor­ity of those stolen have their bod­ies scrapped and their en­gines and trans­mis­sions thrown in a con­tainer and sent some­where off­shore where there’s a mar­ket for dodgy spares. Those cases are also the spe­cialty of younger of­fend­ers who use the cars for a joyride or a free trip home, and ac­count for up to half of all thefts of older ve­hi­cles.

Even though older cars might be twice as likely to be swiped as newer stuff, hav­ing them nicked is still way down the list of ways of los­ing your wheels. Ac­tual fig­ures from in­sur­ance com­pa­nies are a closely guarded se­cret, but the NMVTRC spilled the beans to us. It seems that, of all in­sur­ance claims costs in Aus­tralia, only about five per cent of the dol­lar amounts are down to thefts. Even us­ing the coun­cil’s own fig­ure of older cars be­ing over-rep­re­sented in the stats, that still means only about 10 per cent of claims costs are theft-re­lated. Which means you’re a whole lot more likely to have your car dam­aged in a garage fire, a hail­storm or a good old-fash­ioned stack than you are hav­ing it half-inched.

THEFTS OF RE­ALLY VALU­ABLE CLAS­SICS LIKE GT FALCONSAND FIRST-GEN MONAROS ARE AL­MOST UN­HEARD OF

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