Car crime is still rampant in the UK, despite what the government tells us. So here’s a salutary tale from north London.

According to reports, there is a sophisticated gang roaming around the Hampstead area, seemingly equipped with devices that can crack central locking systems.

The local paper in the area, the excellent Ham & High, reports around half a dozen cases of cars being broken into even though the drivers are adamant that they locked their cars.

One resident reckons her Volvo has been broken into several times, and there are similar cases on a Ford and a couple of BMWs.

It’s not clear from the reports what age or spec the vehicles are, so whether they have deadlocks, for example. But I’d wager that in an affluent area like Hampstead these aren’t old bangers with minimal anti-theft.

The local plod is looking into it, although I doubt it has much of a priority.

Although this is a London-specific story, I bet drivers all over the country can read similar stories in their local papers.

This tale is of major interest because a couple of months ago, I met with the small Police team that’s now the country’s main bulwark against car crime.

Based on the outskirts of Coventry, the AVCIS team replaces various regional car crime squads, which were done away when SOCA — the Serious and Organised Crimes Agency — was formed.

SOCA decided that car crime wasn’t important enough to come under its umbrella.

Ironically, in the case of Hampstead residents suffering a mini car-crime wave, the nearby Met Police department at Chalk Farm was restructured into oblivion as part of this downgrading of car crime.

In place of the local teams is a single one of little more than 30 staff— for the whole of the UK — who are charged with being a centre-of-excellence for car crime while also investigating crimes, too.

Inevitably they have to concentrate on the major gangs, and to their credit have scored some major successes.

But lots of time is still taken-up hunting the country for the bulk of two million V5 documents that disappeared after a printing cock-up in 2006.

Other car crime being focused on are exports of stolen cars abroad, an epidemic of white van stealing, and the increasing world of vehicle finance fraud.

Perhaps of interest in the Hampstead case are the East Europeans caught smuggling into the UK a device that could over-ride the BMW X5 immobiliser.

Technology like that is officially said not to exist. Wonder if something similar to crack central locking systems has made its way onto the streets of north London?

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