Thieves who snatch car keys in burglaries and robberies are stealing as many as 50 cars a day, according to new figures.
The AA said that, in the past year alone, there has been a 15% increase in the number of car keys stolen.
The rise comes despite an overall trend for falling vehicle crime, down more than 60% since the mid-1990s.
Edmund King, president of the AA, said stealing keys is the only way to drive away many because they can be armed with tracking devices, immobilisers and alarms.
He said: ‘The criminals target keys as the weakest link in the car security chain. Last year 15,700 cars were stolen after keys were taken in a burglary and 2,900 cars stolen after keys taken in muggings, pick-pocketing or car jacking.
‘The AA advises all car drivers to treat their car keys like cash – guard and protect your keys to keep hold of your car.’
Stealing car keys
Stealing car keys has become more common in recent years, with some crooks burgling houses at night, or even using fishing rods to hook keys through letterboxes.
Once vehicles are taken they will be left in supermarket car parks or remote locations to see if they are recovered by police, the AA said. If not, they are sold on, often after details are cloned from an identical car, shipped abroad in containers or used in other crimes.
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