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Fords—the easiest cars of the lot to pinch, it's unbelievably easy. You can guarantee you can get into it.

By far the most common method of overcoming the ignition/steering l o c k - described by 66 per cent of thieves—entailed breaking away the plaslic trim around the steering column to expose the ignition barrel which would then be shattered or snapped, mostly using a short piece of scaffold tubing, the diameter of which allows it to be slid over the standard ignition barrel (often referred to as 'scaffing'). The ignition/steering lock could then be removed and the exposed starter motor switch ('the black box') operated.

Again, many offenders remarked on the ease with which this could be achieved:

Astras (are easy) 'cos like the steering lock's easy and the case. Jusl rip the case off, there's a black box al the back of the barrel, hit that open, turn it round with a screwdriver, starts up straight away.

Fords are always easier because the ignition barrels just come off a piece of piss.

Vehicle security: a/arms

Results from previous studies on the deterrent value of alarms are both limited and mixed. Questions were framed here to provide information on perceptions of alarm systems, the relative effectiveness of different types, displacement effects, and experience with alarms.

Not surprisingly, given the large number of alarm systems on the market, roughly half the sample seemed confused and ill-informed regarding makes and types. The other half of the sample however displayed a sound knowledge,

together with some information, which for

quite ingenious obvious reasons,


for disabling

will not be

detailed here.


When pressed on the subject of alarms, 34 per cent said that all alarms deterred them; 18 per cent said it depended on the make of alarm, and nine per cent the model. This suggests that depending on makes and models, alarms might deter as many as six out of ten of the offenders interviewed. This is significantly less than Briggs (1991) who reported that 83 per cent of his sample said they would be deterred by an alarm, but matches the Manchester findings (Smyth, 1991). In the Newport study, 50 per cent of the sample reported being put off by alarms (Gow&Peggrem, 1991).

How did offenders know that a vehicle was alarmed? Although some men- tioned window stickers, a much larger number said that they would look for a flashing red light (LED—light emitting diode) on the dashboard. This raises the possibility that just a light and/or sticker alone might be a useful deterrent. While this may be the case for some offenders, others were clearly aware of this:

Sometimes they're just flashing lights, they are not proper alarms, just a deterrent. And when they've got stickers on and there's no sign of an


alarm, if you want to take the car you've just got to try it because sometimes they're just blank stickers.

Many said that they would kick a tyre or do something similar to check whether an alarm was lilted and in use. If the alarm sounded they would just stroll away—some would return to attempt to take the vehicle; others would try another car.

The limited response indicated that 33 per cent of thieves considered all alarms lo be easy and 40 per cent mentioned one particular make of alarm as being readily overcome. As to easy types of alarms too few responded to give reliable dala—reflecting a lack of knowledge of the systems or an inability to describe them properly, llul of those who did respond, 64 per cent mentioned remote control and 18 per cent door activated systems as being easy. A similarly inadequate response was given when asked which alarm types and makes were difficult to disable.

Nine per cent reported that they had never triggered an alarm during entry to a vehicle. Of those who had, 54 per cent said that they deactivated the system, while 37 per cent reported leaving the vehicle and running away. (In the Manchester study, 64 per cent said they would run away if they activated an alarm (Smyth, 1990).) Of those who had deactivated an alarm, the most common methods ciled were to crawl under the front of the car, reach up and delach the wiring from the alarm, horn or battery, or to 'pop the bonnet and pull the wires out'; if this did not work 'just smash the alarm with a hammer'.

The ability to deactivate alarms increased with confidence and experience:

When I was just starting things like alarms would put you off but you learn things all the time . . . how to get around alarms.

A surprisingly high proportion of those claiming to have deactivated an alarm were in the youngest (15-16) age group, which one might expect to be least skilled. This may suggest an element of exaggeration in their claims. It would have been interesting to put them to the test, and ask them to demonstrate their methods.

On the question of whether thieves felt that people took any notice of alarms 'going off, 12 per cent said yes, 46 per cent replied no and 39 per cent answered sometimes. In the Manchester study a lower figure of 30 per cent felt that an activated alarm would probably be ignored.

One interviewee made the point that:

They take more notice of people running than the alarm itself, say you've gone in and popped the bonnet, the alarm's going off now, just get out of the car and stroll round the front, they think its yours, your having trouble with your alarm. The only person you've got to worry about is the geezer actually walking back himself.


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