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Don’t Let Your Luxury Vehicles Be Targets for Theft

Posted by Don Gorman on Nov 21, 2023

Vehicle theft is on the uptick as CBS shares the latest data from the FBI that indicates almost a million vehicles were stolen in 2022. This is a 10.9% increase from 2021. Close to 70,000 people were arrested for vehicle theft. Additionally, carjackings went up by more than 8% in 2022. What’s scary is that there was a weapon involved in 90% of the carjackings. In some of the carjackings, the suspects worked in groups.

2023 hasn’t proven to be much better. A report by Kelley Blue Book states the Council on Criminal Justice (CCJ) mid-year report shows a large increase in motor vehicle theft in the first six months of the year. Vehicle thefts were 33.5% higher than during the same period in 2022.

It’s unlikely stolen cars will be recovered. The solve rate for vehicle theft has always been low. Now, they’re lower because of the increase in thefts. Thieves are getting savvier in their approaches to committing thefts of luxury and high-performance vehicles.

Too often, people view vehicle theft as a property crime. But it’s more than that. Crooks often use the stolen vehicles to commit other types of crime including those involving shooting and hurting people. Stolen vehicles tend to be a lower priority for the police to investigate. They’re more likely to focus on those vehicles used in a shooting, robbery, or homicide.

How Are Luxury Vehicle Thefts Happening?

How are luxury vehicles being targeted and stolen? The suspects are engaging in some elaborate schemes. Here’s an example from Charlotte, North Carolina, where crooks are suspected of having stolen millions of dollars of vehicles. They committed these crimes across the U.S. at dealerships in North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Tennessee, Kentucky, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, and Arizona.

They pursued luxury vehicles from Bentley, BMW, Cadillac, Land Rover, Porsche, and Mercedes-Benz, and the more expensive models from Chevrolet, Dodge, Ford, and other manufacturers. The suspects would transport the stolen luxury vehicles back to Charlotte, where they set up their home base according to a U.S. Attorney’s Office Western District of North Carolina press release. They’d resell the vehicles below market value.

In this case, the defendants executed multiple methods to obtain these luxury vehicles. One way they did this was by visiting dealerships pretending to be customers shopping for vehicles. During the test drive or the inspection of the vehicle, the defendants supposedly swapped the car’s key fobs with a similar one. They’d come back later using the pilfered key fobs to steal the vehicles.

Another method they allegedly used was smash and grab. They’d break into dealerships to obtain the keys to the luxury models. In some cases, they’d break into lockboxes to access the luxury vehicle keys. They’d use these keys to drive away in luxury vehicles. They also cloned and reprogrammed fobs. This is why it’s important for dealerships to stay on top of the high-tech car theft trends.

Even the non-luxury brands are targets, as thieves used a USB cable and basic tools to pilfer Hyundai and Kia vehicles according to The Drive. Another way they commit theft is by using handheld electronic “pro pads.” Locksmiths use these to clone keys as this AP News story explains.

How did these conspirators manage to elude the police for so long? For one, they took out the GPS navigation and tracking systems from the luxury vehicles. They’d put up fictitious dealer tags or use stolen license plates. They would go so far as to replace the vehicle identification numbers.

In Indianapolis, a man has been sentenced to prison for stealing 24 luxury vehicles worth $1.5 million according to a WishTV.com8 story. Over a two-year period, the defendant used other people’s identities including their names, addresses, and social security numbers for financing vehicles including Dodge Charger Hellcats and a Porsche Panamera GTS.

After he received the vehicles, the suspect defaulted on the loans taken out in other people’s names. He’d either sold the cars for less than retail value or kept them.

Here’s the flip side of this. A person found an affordable used luxury car for sale online. Two days after she picked up the car, the person found out it had been stolen. They went to the DMV to register the car. The employee told them the title was fake. While the fake title had the correct VIN, the name did not match the owner’s name in the system.

Is there anything automotive dealerships can do to help protect their expensive assets? Fortunately, the answer is yes.

How Can Dealerships Help Deter Luxury Vehicle Thefts?

Thieves are getting creative when it comes to stealing vehicles. Digital car keys seem like an effortless way to access a vehicle. However, thieves are finding ways around them to steal vehicles. Key relay devices, used to relay a signal from the fob to the car, key programming tablets and programming an alternative key via the display panel on the console are just a few new methods being used. Dealerships can help deter these types of thefts by parking vehicles inside or pulling them into the service bays at night. Disabling the fuel pump or starter can also be effective.

This increase in vehicle theft also requires automotive dealerships to treat security as a high priority. Traditional dealership security systems do not cut it anymore. By the time a traditional security system goes off, the intruders are probably long gone. The reason is that traditional dealership security systems are reactive. Dealerships need a proactive security solution.

Sometimes the security system doesn’t do anything. The only way the dealership will know if a crime happened is by showing up on the lot and seeing evidence of wrongdoing.

Security guards can’t always solve the problem. Most security guards cannot engage in pursuits. Some states don’t allow them to carry a weapon. And they also cannot see the entire property at once. It could be cost-prohibitive to have enough security guards to see the entire lot, inside and outside.

So, how can automotive dealerships help protect their vehicles when they can’t be locked away? They need a way to guard their million-dollar inventory spread across a vast lot. Thankfully, there’s a robust security technology that can help deter theft, vandalism, and damage.

Security solutions need to be multi-pronged. They need multiple layers. A single solution could do it all, but an integrated security system can do a lot more in making it harder for crooks to accomplish their goals.

An effective deterrent is video surveillance with remote monitoring, video analytics, and an access control system. What makes this approach effective is that the monitoring is done by computers and humans. You combine the best of both while closing the gaps on their weaknesses.

Add an access control system and the dealership can manage who can go into certain areas of the building. For example, a dealership may store the key fobs in a room to help prevent mirroring. This room could have a Faraday cage to block electric signals, so no one can mirror the key fobs. An access control system can limit who has access to this room.

It’s important to create a process for managing key fobs. They should only be in two locations. One is in the storage room with the Faraday cage. The other is in an employee’s hands. Note this is not in their pockets. Someone can pickpocket. The fob should be in their hands. The laser cut key in the fob can be removed and a dummy fob returned with the laser key attached to the inventory tag, so protect your keys and fobs.

The integration of video surveillance, monitoring, and an access control system allows the dealership to help ensure it has the capability for someone to search for events that happened at a certain time.

Besides, luxury vehicle thefts happen fast. Dealerships need commercial-grade security solutions like video surveillance with remote monitoring. The advantage of these is they can record everything that happens. These recordings could help identify the suspects and their vehicles. The police, lawyers, and insurance companies can use the footage in their investigations.

How an Integrated Security System Gets a Fast ROI

Remote video surveillance with video analytics and an integrated access control system comes with many advantages that aren’t found in other security solutions. Companies that work with Stealth Monitoring have seen an ROI within months.

An integrated security system helps boost efficiency, improve operations, and identify areas for improving productivity. A trained security professional can do a review of the dealership lot to design a security system with remote video surveillance and remote monitoring. It’s called remote because the trained monitoring operator is located elsewhere away from the lot.

The security professional can install security cameras in strategic locations around the dealership for the best views that cover the entire property. Video analytics can monitor for potential problems and alert a monitoring operator when it detects one. The trained monitoring operator can take action in real time. They can alert the suspects through an onsite speaker and contact law enforcement while staying on top of the intruders.

Unfortunately, employee theft is a problem. Video cameras may cut the risk of employee theft. Monitoring could make it harder for them to commit inside jobs.

Moreover, the integrated security system can help protect dealerships from false claims. Some owners bring in their vehicles for maintenance or servicing and claim the dealership damaged their car. They can’t get away with this thanks to remote video surveillance and monitoring.

Anytime a customer makes a claim, contact the monitoring company. Video analysts can search the footage to find out what happened. Here’s how video surveillance prevented a liability claim against a dealership. It’s hard to win liability claims without proof. The recordings from the security cameras solve that problem.

In opting to work with Stealth Monitoring, a dealership will have access to innovative security solutions. Stealth has offices across North America. This allows the company to build partnerships with local law enforcement departments. The police tend to respond faster when they get a call from Stealth. They know they have video evidence something is happening.

Some dealerships have seen productivity go up. They use video monitoring to review how dealership employees and customers move around the lot. It helps determine if the lot has the right number of people and identifies gaps. They also reduced customer waiting times and enhanced customer service.

The cost of the integrated security solution includes hardware, technology, monitoring, and maintenance. The average Stealth client sees an ROI within months. To learn more about dealership security, pick up this guide to four auto dealership theft trends. Please contact us with your questions.

Texas Private Security License Number: B14187
California Alarm Operator License Number: ACO7876
Florida Alarm System Contractor I License Number: EF20001598
Tennessee Alarm Contracting Company License Number: 2294
Virginia Private Security Services Business License Number: 11-19499
Alabama Electronic Security License # 002116
Canada TSBC License: LEL0200704