‘My £45,000 Kia was stolen and I tracked where the thieves took it from holiday… but police still can’t find it’
- EXCLUSIVE: Kia owner slams officers who failed to find his car despite tracking
A TV publicist has slammed police after they failed to find his stolen car – even though he could track its movements on an app from his holiday.
Ian Johnson, 55, was away in Greece when he was alerted to the theft of his £45,000 Kia EV6 from his home in Balham, south London.
Using the Kia app, he could see that the car had moved to a garage in Romford that sells car parts, before then being driven to a farmhouse in Harlow, Essex.
However, when he told police of its apparent location, officers attended and told him that they couldn’t find it on the street.
Mr Johnson told MailOnline and This is Money: ‘I find it hard to believe the police couldn’t at least do a more thorough check.
‘I’m literally going to them ‘I can tell you where this car is’, but they won’t do anything about it.
Ian Johnson was able to see on his Kia app that his car had been moved to near Harlow, Essex
The £45,000 Kia EV6 was stolen from his home in Balham, south London, last month (stock picture)
He added: ‘Even when I’ve told them I’d be willing to go round there myself, they strongly urged me not to because it might be dangerous. So what can I do?
‘I would have thought that as it was clearly taken to an address that sells car parts that it would have been worth investigating, but they didn’t even look into or know the business that was at that address.’
His frustration has been compounded by having to bounce between both the Metropolitan and Essex police forces.
The Met insists enquiries to local the car are ongoing, more than two weeks after the theft.
However, Mr Johnson says he believes the tracker has now been ‘frozen’ and that the vehicle has been broken up or sold abroad.
The app also tracks when the car was used, having been taken at 1.40am on August 31
Earlier this summer, videos of the ‘Kia Boyz’ went viral on TikTok in the US, showing people how to exploit vulnerability in the cars and steal them using just a USB cable.
It is not clear if this method was used to steal Mr Johnson’s car, but he was told by the manufacturer that thieves ‘use increasingly complex methods to gain illegal access to vehicles’.
One of the main causes behind a spike in car crime is so-called relay theft. This allows thieves to break into cars in seconds, without using blunt force or needing a key, all by exploiting electronic key fobs.
Mr Johnson was advised to buy a specialist Faraday pouch for his key fobs, which are cheap protective sleeves that block the signal the key generates and therefore protects cars from criminals.
A survey of more than 4,000 UK drivers found that half are not taking any measures to secure they keyless cars from criminals who are using relay tactics to target them
Mr Johnson was advised to buy a specialist Faraday pouch for his key fobs, which are cheap protective sleeves that block the signal the key generates and therefore protects cars from criminals (pictured, the set-up used by AA chief Edmund King)
A Met Police spokesperson said: ‘On Thursday, 31 August we received a report that a car had been stolen from outside a property in Culverden Road, SW12.
‘The owner of the car provided location data that suggested the vehicle was now in Essex. Enquiries are ongoing to locate the vehicle.’
An Essex Police spokesperson added: ‘On Thursday 31 August we received information of a stolen vehicle reported to be in the Harlow area.
‘Officers carried out a number of enquiries to locate the vehicle, including carrying out searches in the area, but the vehicle was not found.’
Kia has been approached for comment.
How do criminals steal cars using relay tactic?
Criminals usually go in pairs to steal keyless cars. One holds a transmitter and stands next to the vehicle while the other stands close to the house holding an amplifier
To target new – and often high-end – motors, thieves are arming themselves with cheap technology that allows them to take cars without having to step foot into someone’s property to take the keys.
Keyless entry and keyless ignition means a driver only needs to have the car’s key on their body – in their pocket for instance – not only to unlock the doors but to start the engine.
While this is a convenience feature, it is also one that leaves owners susceptible to car crime.
Usually two thieves will work together when planning to pinch a car with keyless tech. One holds a transmitter and stands next to the car while the other stands close to the house holding an amplifier.
The amplifier can boost the signal from the key inside the property and send it to the transmitter.
The transmitter essentially becomes a ghost key and tricks the car into thinking the real key is nearby. This then opens the car and allows it to be driven away without causing any damage.
Insurers have estimated that around half of all car thefts are currently conducted in this way because criminals can do it quickly and in near silence, with gangs usually targeting vehicles in the middle of the night without raising suspicion.