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Motor vehicle thefts are rising in India but the solution may be near

June 19, 2007

Auto thefts are increasing in India, but falling in developed countries, though ofcourse, developed countries have a far greater number of actual vehicle thefts. In fact the actual number of vehicle thefts lets say in the UK are around 500,000 a year, in Australia (2006) about 75,000 and in the United States (FBI stats 2005) over 1.2 million, as compared to India’s 40,000. In fact, one vehicle is stolen in the US every 25.5 seconds…but then just the number of passenger vehicles in the US were over 235 million (2001, US Bureau of Transit Statistics).

In contrast, ALL motor vehicles in India are just about 67 million – 2003: Asian Development Bank (ADB). So the trend is what matters. Today in India a vehicle is stolen every six minutes, as per the National Crime Records Bureau. Most of these are passenger vehicles.

There was a 23 per cent rise in vehicle thefts in India during the period 2003-05. In contrast, in Australia, motor vehicle thefts went down in 2006 by as much as 7% as compared to 2005! In the US the decline is smaller (.2 percent) but still, there is a downward trend.

So why are thefts of motor vehicles on the rise in India? Well, lack of security measures for vehicles is the major reason. While some luxury cars come fitted with security systems like warning alarms and hi-tech anti-theft gadgets, most cars don’t.

But this is going to change. As it says here:

India is going the EU way; it hopes to make it mandatory that by 2008, all two, three and four-wheeler makers equip their products with hi-tech anti-theft devices.

Maruti Udyog, a leading car maker in India will be coming out with some new products like an immobiliser (a transponder built into the car key) which carries a unique electronic identification and a secret code that digitally communicates with the engine computer. Unless the security code matches the one in the computer’s memory, the vehicle will not start.

Other security devices like locksets, steering column locks and remote keyless entry systems will also be available and are to be supplied by foreign as well as Joint Venture firms in India.

Considering that just over a quarter of the vehicles stolen in India are recovered (that too in a bad shape), a regulation to make car security compulsory is badly needed. Actually its late enough…because the Supreme Court ordered that high security number plates be fitted in vehicles in all states by May 2006. So far only Meghalaya has done this.

What is a high security number plate? Well, these new kind of high-security number plates (their presence can be picked up by sensors) will have a chrominum-based hologram, a laser-branded permanent identification number and other security features. They will be fitted for all vehicles in Maharashtra from October this year. The owner of the vehicle has to pay for it…and the increase in cost will range from 25 -75 percent over the ordinary one. Mumbai will be the first metro that will have the plates, according to state government officials.

These new number plates will be almost impossible to duplicate. This will also stop cloning, a popular method used by auto thieves after stealing the vehicle, where number plates are either switched, or duplicated. In India, cloning is used for other purposes too. For example, as only a limited number of licences are given for running say a rickshaw, what owners do is install the same number for two rickshaws!

All in all, these new security measures will be a relief as most of the time the average car owner is not aware of what needs to be done. Now it will done at the factory level itself. And for those who already have vehicles, it will become mandatory by law to make the necessary alternations.

Related Reading: Causes of road accidents
Accident victims don’t get help in time
At the recieving end of road rage
The influential, the rich and the celebrities get away with rash driving

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