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Car Theft

Security advice for owners of recently-imported Asian market cars after increase in thefts

Sources have said that the targeted cars which lack an immobiliser are imported from Japan and the wider Asian market.

GARDAÍ ARE INVESTIGATING a spate of thefts of Toyota cars after car thieves discovered the vehicles do not have immobilisers.

Sources have said that the targeted cars, which recently arrived on the Irish market, are imported from Japan and the wider Asian market.

The issue arose when car thieves noticed that the vehicles are with out a device which prevents the theft of the car. 

A group representing the motoring industry in Ireland, SIMI, has offered advice to motorists to deal with the problem. 

Since the early 2000s the vast majority of cars sold in Ireland have an immobiliser – this was a measure introduced to prevent cars being started by so-called hotwiring. 

Hotwiring is where a car thief breaks into the car, removes the plastic covering around the ignition wires and starts the vehicle by touching the wires in a sequence.

Car thieves also used filed-down keys and even screwdrivers in older vehicles before immobilisers were introduced.

The thieves have identified the imported vehicles that do not have the device to prevent the vehicle being started without a key.

Sources said that there is not even a need to hotwire some of the imports given that a lot of the cars are automatics with key fob starters. 

They can break into the car and then take the vehicle by just waiting a few seconds before pressing an ignition key and putting the vehicle in drive.  

Sources believe that in some cases the ignition fob is inside the house of the motorist and due to proximity to the drive way is still communicating with the car.  

Sources said gardaí have dealt with approximately 70 stolen car incidents nationwide of a particular Toyota which has been imported into the country since the start of the year. (We’re not publicising the model of car in this article for obvious reasons).

A national warning has been issued to gardaí in hopes of catching the criminals. 

Previously, sources said, car thieves could only steal a car by either taking the keys in a burglary or by using an expensive computer system which was able to override the car’s central-locking and starter system. 

The arrival of the imported cars onto the Irish market without the immobiliser has made them an easier prospect for car thieves. 

When asked by The Journal a spokesperson for Toyota Ireland declined to give advice to motorists who may be affected. A spokesperson said that the problem has nothing to do with the Irish wing of the company as “those cars are imported”.

“All our Toyota vehicles have factory immobilisers as a security measure. We don’t comment on imported Toyota vehicles,” a spokesperson stated. 

Teresa Noone of the Society of Irish Motor Industry (SIMI) gave this advice to motorists affected by the problem:  

“An immobiliser is an anti-theft device that stops your car from starting if something other than the key is used. Immobilisers are standard in most new cars.

“An add-on immobilisers are available for older vehicles that do not come equipped with factory immobilisers and can be fitted by your local garage,” she explained. 

Noone said that motorists should assess the security risk of where they park their car and make sure it is in a visible well lit area. 

Install a steering wheel lock, which is simply a lock that secures your steering wheel.

She advised not to leave any personal belongings on display in your car, never leave your car running idle and always remove keys from the ignition, as all it take is a few seconds for a thief.

“If you have a keyless entry car, consider placing the key fob in a protective key pouch to prevent any signal from the key fob and the car being hacked,” she added. 

A statement has been requested from An Garda Síochána.

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