CONVICTED thieves have revealed how they use car wing mirrors to cruelly decide which vehicles to target.
They have admitted electric wing mirrors can present as a "green flag" for unlocked vehicles to steal, or search through for valuables.
The convicted car thieves told university researchers they will scan the streets to identify modern cars with retractable wing mirrors that are not folded in as a simple sign the vehicle is unlocked.
Former police chief inspector Kevin Floyd, a criminologist at Huddersfield University, who interviewed convicted car thieves in prison, told The Telegraph that most of the thefts came from "lazy" motorists failing to lock their cars even when they had valuables inside.
Mr Floyd said that meant opportunistic thieves could easily bypass all the alarms, keyless defences and other hi-tech security that vehicle giants have spent tens of millions of pounds developing.
He said: "With modern cars nowadays, open wing mirrors equate in the thief's mind with an open door. It's as simple as that. It's a green flag.
"It's as easy as walking along the street. They don't want to try the doors because they are so sensitive they will set off an alarm but if the mirrors are open, then it's confirmation the car is unlocked and no alarm will go off.
"They can then sit there, pretend to be the owner and take as long as they want to have a good look around and either nick things or steal the car. It's an open invitation.
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"The other basic mistake is leaving valuables in the first place because the car owners are lazy. It is not just valuables with a financial value but valuables that can be used to commit more theft. For example, people may leave a bunch of house keys and a letter with their address in there."
His warning was echoed by Jenny Sims, the National Police Chiefs’ Council’s lead on car crime.
In the past year the theft of vehicles had risen 22 per cent from around 90,000 to nearly 110,000, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
That is the equivalent of 300 thefts a day.
Ms Sims said: “Locking your vehicle, even when filling up or parked on your drive, greatly reduces the possibility of it being targeted by an opportunist thief. Even if you have locked your vehicle, check you haven’t left any windows or the sunroof open.
“Vehicles today are by and large more difficult to steal than ever, unless the thief can access your key or fob to clone them. Keep your keys safe, out of view when at home, and away from your front door.”
Looking out for modern cars without their wing mirrors folded in is quite a cheeky trick for thieves
The low-tech threat comes on top of growing development by organised crime gangs of car thieves who often use technology to intercept or block the signals from keyless fobs.
Ms Sims has suggested that as well as keeping keys away from doors or windows in screened or signal blocking “faraday” bags, motorists could also deploy the older-fashioned steering wheel crook lock.
Jack Cousens, head of roads policy at the AA, said: “Looking out for modern cars without their wing mirrors folded in is quite a cheeky trick for thieves.
"Sometimes the simplest thing is the biggest giveaway and while wing mirrors will just blend into the background for passers-by and car owners, open mirrors must stand out like a sore thumb to the miscreants.
“If that wasn’t enough, drivers often just press the buttons on the key fob and trust the airwaves that their car has been locked.
"However, thieves have now got their hands on signal blocking technology allowing them to intercept the request from the key, meaning drivers walk away unknowingly leaving the car unlocked.
"Waiting an extra five seconds to check the mirrors and handle is all that’s needed to ensure the car is locked before walking away.”
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