Chinese companies fuelling theft of luxury cars with cheap GPS-jammers

Car theft
Car theft

A wave of luxury vehicle thefts on Britain’s streets is being fuelled by Chinese companies selling cheap jamming devices, experts have warned.

The jammers, which can block GPS, mobile phone and radio signals, range from cheaper, low-powered devices covering a couple of metres to more powerful ones capable of blocking signals within a distance of 100 metres or more.

This allows car thieves to steal vehicles and then car thieves to steal vehicles and then block signals from any tracking devices, making it much harder to discover their whereabouts once they have been taken.

In some cases gangs have used them to mask tracking signals emanating from ultra-luxury cars that are being smuggled out of Britain in shipping containers, for onward sale to buyers in sanction-hit countries such as Russia.

But despite the fact that using the devices is illegal, they can be easily bought online for as little as £24.

Research by Gloucestershire-based Chronos Technology found more than 100 example websites – many of them run by Chinese companies – where jammers were sold for delivery to Britain.

Some were even available on mainstream websites including Amazon and Ebay, although police regularly ask for these to be removed.

Professor Charles Curry, chairman and founder of Chronos, said the devices are often advertised as being “for privacy protection” but are more often abused by car thieves, human traffickers and other organised criminals.

They could also be used to attack pieces of critical national infrastructure, he added.

When shipped to the UK, they are often made to appear to look like harmless internet and wifi routers to deceive authorities.

Mr Curry said: “Using these devices is illegal, so there is no legitimate reason for a normal person to possess one. But almost nothing is being done to stop these websites, many of which have been around for years, from selling them.

“They are often run from China, so they can’t easily be shut down.”

One way for police to counter the use of jammers would be to employ devices which can detect their use, Mr Curry said.

His company is currently trialling this technology on the roads with one English police force. Any car found to be carrying a jammer is then flagged in national police databases.

It comes as police are battling an surge in vehicle thefts across the country, with the number of recorded incidents having jumped by half in the year to September 2023.

The Telegraph previously revealed how organised crime groups are smuggling luxury cars such as Bentleys, Range Rovers and Rolls-Royces out of the country whole via containers, with others chopped up or stripped for parts.

Many are finding their way to Russia, experts have warned, as western sanctions on the country fuel a thriving black market.

On Sunday, the Government reiterated its ambition to crack down on the use of signal jammers and other devices used to steal cars.

Provisions in the Criminal Justice Bill, which is currently working its way through Parliament, would make possessing, selling and importing the technology illegal.

There was a 48pc increase in vehicle thefts in the year to the end of September 2023, according to the Crime Survey of England and Wales, rising from 72,000 to 106,000 incidents.

As previously reported by The Telegraph, experts have blamed the use of signal jammers and other technology used to break into cars for a surge in thefts.

They have also warned that only a tiny proportion of containers leaving the UK – used by gangs to smuggle out car parts and entire luxury vehicles – are being searched.

However, port owners have warned that any efforts to step up searches must be “proportionate” so as not to disrupt trade.

Mr Curry said greater use of devices capable of detecting signal jamming may be one potential way to allow more searches to take place without causing major delays.

On Sunday, a spokesman for the Home Office insisted vehicle crime overall had fallen by 38pc since 2010.

She added: “We are also banning electronic devices used to steal vehicles, empowering the police and courts to target the criminals using them and the organised criminals manufacturing and supplying them.”

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