Internet retailers were accused of irresponsibility last night for refusing to stop selling devices that fuel vehicle crime.
The Daily Mail revealed yesterday that dozens of the gadgets are listed on Amazon and eBay.
Costing as little as £100, they can be used to steal a car in seconds.
David Jamieson, police and crime commissioner for the West Midlands, where vehicle theft has almost doubled, wrote to Amazon and eBay almost a fortnight ago asking for specific devices to be removed from their sites.
Yet last night gadgets used in a Mail investigation – including a Ford lock pick, blank key and key programming device – all remained on sale. Mr Jamieson said: ‘Amazon seem impervious to responsibility. That is so disappointing.
A crime commissioner accused ‘irresponsible’ web retailers of helping criminals, saying the devices should be taken off sale
Gaining access: The lock pick, to be used of Fords, can be bought for £21
‘EBay say they’re taking them down but they’re not. I’d have thought they have some technology that tells them whether things they sell online are legal.
‘If you try to sell a high powered weapon on there, there is a way for the website not to sell it. EBay are just making excuses.’
Yesterday Amazon indicated it would be writing to the commissioner in response to his letter. It also said that the products sold on its site were legal, widely available and had legitimate uses.
EBay also refused to comment on the fact key programmers were still available on its site. Earlier this month a spokesman said: ‘We have banned the sale of these types of items on our site, and our policies in this area are stricter than UK law requires.
‘The safety of our customers is our number one priority, and we work closely with law enforcement authorities and sellers to ensure that we have the right restrictions in place.’
Key programming devices can be used for legitimate purposes, but their widespread availability and low cost has been cited as a major reason for the leap in car theft. It has risen by 30 per cent in three years – with 86,000 vehicles stolen in 2016.
Mr Jamieson added: ‘Lots of things are legal but it is irresponsible for Amazon and eBay to keep the devices on their sites. ‘They should act properly to take them down and get them off the market.’
Mr Jamieson said he was calling on the Government to set new standards for car manufacturers and online retailers.
‘It should make key programmers available only to people who are registered with master locksmiths. Unless you were in the trade or the business why do you need this device? I only need it if I’m going to steal someone’s car.’
Daniel Zeichner, Labour MP for Cambridge and chairman of the all-party group on data analytics, said: ‘I have been calling for more robust regulation of new technology for exactly these kind of reasons. The Government must act quickly to strengthen legislation to stop new technology from aiding criminals and putting vulnerable people at risk.’
Yesterday the Home Office said there were ‘no plans to introduce new regulations in this area because as with all calls for a change in the law, there needs to be a strong evidence base’.
A blank key and the real key are almost identical
Reprogramming devices can help change the settings of the keys
Mr Jamieson criticised this stance, saying: ‘It’s breathtaking complacency. What is Amber Rudd doing? What is the Home Office doing? The evidence is so clear. Over two years car theft has doubled in the West Midlands and there have been alarming rises in other areas of the country.
‘To say there isn’t a problem, we need more evidence, that’s just complacency on stilts.’
Car theft had been in decline following the introduction of immobilisers, alarm systems and tracking devices. But the array of new electronic gadgets has helped thieves to outsmart manufacturers and police.
Two main methods of car theft deploy devices available online. The first type ‘relays’ a signal from the keys inside the owner’s home to their vehicle outside.
This opens the car’s doors and allows the criminals to make off with the vehicle.
The second method involves forcing entry to the car and using a programming device that tells the vehicle’s computer to trust a blank key.