I attended the first day of this excellent IAATI (International Association of Auto Theft Investigators) conference held on the 8th & 9th of June. There were some excellent speakers from the police and from many other organisations, both government and commercial, and fantastic opportunities for networking. Much of the conference was of course orientated to the motor trade, rather than to plant and equipment, but there were lessons and insights which apply across the board.
We learned that the overall trend for vehicle theft is down since the 1990s, albeit with a rise by 20% over the last year. We also learned that there is a huge amount of asset fraud: namely £146 million's worth in the motor trade. This represents a 24% increase. This is also a major problem in the world of plant and equipment. The insurance industry is nowadays under continuous attack by criminals (and, indeed, by 'normal' members of the public who somehow think that it is 'okay' to 'pull the wool' over the eyes of brokers and underwriters). The overall result is that the insurance industry is defrauded of £2billion per year. And we all pay the price – literally – through higher premiums. In the world of plant fraud, there is more that insurers could do - and that we could do for them, if they took up some suggestions more readily.
The statistic that 1 in 4 motor vehicles on the road have HP agreements is also notable; the phrase "caveat emptor" springs to mind.
The nature of vehicle theft has changed hugely over the years. Gone are the joyriders and opportunists, increasingly since the 1990s replaced by organized and tech-savvy criminals. We learnt about the electronic 'arms race' between criminals and crime preventers. And that of course GPS is very valuable for tracking vehicles, but can be cheaply jammed. Buying jammers is legal, although it is hard to think of a legal application! So now the race is on to detect through electronic means those who use jammers. In the meantime, 45% of stolen vehicles are recovered, albeit as low as 5% for certain models.
Immobilisers are a sensible addition to a vehicle's electronic paraphernalia; the thief can drive a certain distance and then the vehicle stops. The average modern car has about a thousand electronic processes, all of which are potentially open to compromise. We learnt about keyless theft and electronic cloning, and how much cheaper it is to commit the crime than to frustrate it. And about other initiatives to combat the thieves, which I shan't repeat here for obvious reasons.
One well known example is the Datatag scheme, on which we were updated. Datatag briefed on their successful partnerships with manufacturers, and the fail-safe expedient of placing markers in many different parts of the vehicle. They made the point that this doesn't stop the theft; it shifts it to less well-protected items. For example, in the field of motorbikes, unmarked older bikes have a 3.5 times greater chance of being stolen than more modern bikes. Regrettably, most stolen bikes – and the same goes for plant in some cases – are broken into parts and added to 'clean' frames.
Through some outstanding and memorable case histories, we were also reminded of the importance of communications, in the context of liaison and of being 'joined up'. The more the different agencies work together and the more they team with industry, the greater the impact on the criminals. And this includes relationships with European agencies, which clearly need to continue to grow - notwithstanding Brexit.
John Deverell, TER
Find out more about IAATI at http://www.iaati.org.uk/