New car theft menace

2011-08-29 00:00

POLICE have warned that thefts of vehicles involving jamming and other electronic devices are on the increase in Pietermaritzburg.

It was previously reported that thieves are using remote-control devices for gates to jam remotes for vehicles to prevent the doors from locking so that they can steal items inside.

The remote control for gates has a free-range signal, meaning that when it is pressed it prevents other remotes in that vicinity from working, including those of cars, which use a direct signal.

The police said that recently they learnt that an electronic device used by auto manufacturers to jump-start a vehicle when the owners has lost the ignition key is being used by criminals to steal cars. The police have dubbed this device “magic start”.

Most vehicles that have been targeted using this device are Toyotas, including Hiluxes and Fortunas.

Police spokesperson Lieutenant Joey Jeevan said the police have noticed a significant increase in vehicle theft in Pietermaritzburg, especially of Toyotas.

Jeevan said that while some vehicles have been recovered, none have been the high-end Fortunas.

Detective Sergeant Amith Budhram of the Pietermaritzburg precinct explained how thieves steal vehicles using “magic start”, which he described as a computer-like box with three wires coming from the sides.

“The box is used by car manufacturers to start cars when the owner has lost the key, but now the criminals have got their hands on them.

“Every car key that was manufactured after 2000 has a microchip that is unique to that car and carries the information of that car.”

“When the driver inserts the key in the ignition the microchip is quickly read and if the information is correct a signal is sent to the car’s computer, which is the brain of the car that enables all the controls to function.”

The criminals are using the “magic start” device to bypass this process.

“What they do is plug the ‘magic start’ into the car’s electronics and the battery and start the car, bypassing the computer.”

Budhram said the police suspect that criminals are using the remotes for gates to jam vehicle remotes to prevent the doors from locking and then open the hood, wire up the “magic start” and drive off with the vehicle.

He said the only known way to prevent this kind of crime is for motorists to be vigilant. They should double-check that their cars are locked; if they experience any problems they should look around for suspicious characters who might be jamming their remotes.

He said motorists who experience problems can call him at 072 349 8707 or 033 8452 736.

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