Representatives of car makers BMW, Ford, Nissan, Jaguar Land Rover, Audi and Honda have been told to increase car security during talks with the West Midlands Police commissioner.
Thieves are using devices which can detect a car key signal from outside the home and relay it to the car unlocking the doors and allowing them to start the motor and drive off – in under a minute.
Across the West Midlands the number of cars stolen has nearly doubled in two years – from 5,344 cars in 2015 to 9,451 cars last year. The national statistics also show a rise.
In contrast there was a 75 per cent fall during the ten years to 2013.
Mr Jamieson called for a change in the law to get electronic devices, being used to trick cars into opening for the criminals, removed from sale on sites like ebay and Amazon and only available to registered mechanics or locksmiths.
The commissioner’s spokesman said ebay is taking action to remove the devices, but Amazon is still selling then and has not yet responded to their request.
Mr Jamieson, said: ““The recent rise in car thefts is becoming an epidemic. It is extremely worrying to see all the hard work of the last ten years starting to be undone.
“We must not sit back and watch as this issue worsens. I want more to be done to protect cars from criminals.
“Whilst I’ll be expecting the police to tackle the problem head on and to continue to make arrests, it is also not good enough for manufacturers to sell vehicles worth tens of thousands of pounds if that car can be stolen from a driveway in under 60 seconds.
“Now is the time for car manufacturers to take action.”
The police were also asked to do more, including to record the method to assess how many are lost to relay theft.
What the car industry says
Chief executive of the Society of Motor Manufacturers Mike Hawes said: “Recent increases in vehicle crime are concerning and it’s an issue that industry takes extremely seriously.
“It is important to remember, however, that the risk of theft is still very small – less than 0.3 per cent of the near 40 million vehicles on our roads today are stolen.
“The latest models feature sophisticated immobilisers, tracking devices and encrypted key codes to prevent cloning and manufacturers are investing billions to try to stay one step ahead of the criminals.
“However, technology can only do so much, and we continue to call for collective efforts to combat all forms of vehicle theft.
“Industry supports action that will allow accurate and consistent recording for different methods of vehicle theft, and prevent the sale and use of cloning technologies, signal blocking and other devices that have no legal purpose. “
Dr Steffan George from the Master Locksmiths Association has backed registration and limits on sales.
He said: “The open availability of electronic compromise equipment, lock picks and other tools that only locksmiths should have access to is distressing for our industry.
“The lack of regulation of the locksmith industry means that anyone can call themselves a locksmith. It is also the reason that it is difficult to restrict the sale of these devices.”
Security expert says industry needs to catch up with criminal
Professor Siraj Shaikh, an expert in systems security from Coventry University, who was at the event said: “Vehicles are changing, and quickly. We love the gadgetry that brings comfort and convenience to our user experience, whether it’s keyless entry or connecting our smart device to our car.
“But cybersecurity in the automotive industry is not keeping pace with the rate at which this connectivity is being brought into our vehicles. That’s an opportunity for criminals.”