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High-value rental cars recovered after telematics tracks car thieves

Aftermarket telematics tracking tech has recovered stolen vehicles worth nearly £300,000 for London-based prestige car hire company City Inter Rent.

Keyless theft

The thieves had disabled the OEM vehicle tracking services but had missed the dedicated IMS telematics tracking devices

The two high-value Range Rovers and a top-of-the-range Mercedes-Benz were recovered from car thieves within hours of alerts going out from the tracking devices, installed just months earlier by telematics tech company IMS (Insurance & Mobility Solutions).

While the thieves, likely to be professional criminals stealing vehicles to order, had disabled the manufacturer’s on-board vehicle tracking services, they missed the dedicated IMS telematics tracking devices, which enabled the vehicles to be located in containers at Ilford, Essex, ready for shipping abroad.

IMS director Dave Turnock said that, prior to shipping, thieves normally park stolen vehicles in a residential area for 48 hours to see if the vehicles are tracked before exporting them, usually to Africa, the Middle East or Eastern Europe.

The vehicles had their wiring ripped out and had suffered body damage. There were no arrests made.

Turnock explained: “Recent RAC Insurance research shows a 56% rise in vehicle theft over the past four years, and cars with keyless functionality are a particular target. Thieves are finding new technologies to override these systems and steal such vehicles, especially high-value cars.”

He added: “You need to work fast once an alert is triggered. We have a very short window of opportunity to work with our repatriation partners and law enforcement agencies to recover the vehicles before they are exported and, as is often the case, broken for parts.”

Ian Highland, operations director of City Inter Rent, said: “Due to the nature of our business, we carry a high excess on our fleet insurance policy, and should we have suffered a total loss of the three vehicles in question, the financial outlay and resulting negative impact on the cost of future premiums would have been a real blow.”

A total of 152,541 vehicles were stolen in 2018-19 compared with 97,609 in 2014-15, according to police data. IMS’s Turnock said that while opportunistic theft was a factor behind the increase, particularly with economic pressures in the wake of Covid-19, organised criminals are making big money from shipping stolen cars to other parts of the world, or breaking them up for parts.

He said: “The proceeds are often used to fund more serious forms of crime, such as drug dealing or people trafficking. We urge law enforcement to make vehicle crime more of a priority, with stiff prison sentences for criminals, and we will continue to deploy technology to keep up with the criminals.”


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Natalie Middleton

Natalie has worked as a fleet journalist for nearly 20 years, previously as assistant editor on the former Company Car magazine before joining Fleet World in 2006. Prior to this, she worked on a range of B2B titles, including Insurance Age and Insurance Day.