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Monday, 4 February, 2002, 13:53 GMT
The growing trend of car-jacking
Timothy Robinson
Timothy Robinson was stabbed in a possible car-jacking
With an increasing number of car-jackings being reported, BBC News Online's Denise Winterman looks at the growth of a worrying crime trend.

Car-jacking, the crime believed to have led to the murder of London estate agent Timothy Robinson last week, has hit the headlines again.

This time a 41-year-old mother-of-three was punched unconscious in New Charlton, south-east London, before her attacker drove off in her 50,000 Mercedes.

Police in Essex are also hunting a group who stole a BMW at gunpoint last Thursday in Loughton and are believed to have tried to steal a second BMW earlier in the evening.

Car-jacking is affecting the whole of the country. It is a matter of real public concern

Scotland Yard
Car-jacking is a growing problem, with 90 reported cases in London alone last year.

But it is not just a problem in the capital. The crime has become such a worry in West Yorkshire police have set up a squad to deal with it.

In Bradford alone there were five reported car-jackings and four attempted car-jackings in January.

Monthly meetings have been set up between forces from London, Essex, Hertfordshire and Cambridgeshire to try to build up intelligence on the gangs involved.

In one incident in Essex last October a man was shot in the stomach as he was forced from his Mercedes.

A spokesman for Scotland Yard said: "Car-jacking is affecting the whole of the country. It is a matter of real public concern."


Police believe car-jackings are a response to advances in vehicle security.

Thieves are avoiding trying to break into locked cars in favour of getting their hands on the ignition keys.

In the most extreme cases, they threaten the driver at gunpoint. Other ploys include stealing vehicles when people leave the keys in the ignition at petrol stations.

Although all expensive cars are a target, the criminals are particularly drawn to Porsches, Mercedes, Jaguars and BMWs.

Police say many are shipped abroad. The thieves themselves get paid as little as 700.

Police advice
Lock car doors when driving
Never leave keys in the ignition
If threatened, hand over the keys
A Scotland Yard spokesman told BBC News Online that it had been successful in a number of convictions involving car-jacking, though no exact figures were available.

He said one gang of eight male youths, who have now been convicted of taking a car and driving it away, are believed to be responsible for up to half the 90 reported incidents in London last year.

Police have now submitted reports to the CPS to see if the youths, who are aged between 18 and 21, can also be charged with robbery - a more serious charge which carries a tougher sentence.

While car-jacking is thought to be a relatively new phenomenon in the UK, the first case in South Africa is reported to have been recorded in the mid-1970s.

It was recorded as a robbery and did not earn its own crime category until 1986.

By the late 1990s, cases had spiralled with a reported 10,000 cases each year in Gauteng, the province which includes Johannesburg.

Survival techniques

Statistics in South Africa show that the most vulnerable time for motorists is between 4pm and 8pm, when it is getting dark.

Tuesdays and Fridays have also emerged as the car-jackers' most active days, with driveways, supermarket car parks, traffic lights and schools the favourite hunting grounds.

Courses are now run in car-jacking survival techniques.

In America car-jackings are also reportedly reaching new highs.

Police forces around the UK have now issued advice for drivers:

  • If you are bumped from behind do not leave your car. Lock the doors and drive to the nearest police station

  • If threatened, hand over the keys. Do nothing to anger the attackers

  • Never leave the keys in the ignition when leaving your car, especially while paying for petrol or getting a ticket to park

  • Be aware of the cars around you. Do not stop too near the car in front

  • Use your common sense. Different circumstances will mean different reactions, but do not put yourself in danger

  • At night place the car keys in a drawer away from the windows, upstairs if possible. Do not leave them near the letterbox

  • Click here to go to London
    See also:

    04 Feb 02 | England
    Blunkett's warning to car-jackers
    03 Sep 01 | UK
    Man shot in car-jacking
    29 Aug 01 | UK
    Police target gun gangs
    19 Jul 01 | UK
    Woman struck in car-jacking
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