How anti-theft devices can drive away Hongkong's car thieves

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 21 February, 1993, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 21 February, 1993, 12:00am

IF THE latest car theft statistics are anything to go by, there is a better than one in 30 chance your car will be stolen at some stage with little hope of recovery.

With almost 2,000 luxury category cars stolen last year alone, the risk is even higher for those owners at the top end of the market.

According to Hongkong Automobile Association (HKAA) estimates, the loss to the insurance industry is close to $1 billion and with a number of insurance firms raising the theft excess clause up to 50 per cent, the real cost is higher.

Despite this alarming rise in car theft, there appears to be little in the way of practical advice from insurance companies on how owners can better secure their cars and minimise the risk of theft.

In addition to many of the sophisticated anti-theft alarm systems offered, either fitted or to be fitted, there are a number of cheaper alternatives which can be as effective in deterring potential thieves.

In their most basic form, steering wheel locks are relatively easy and quick to fit, as well as highly visible to prying eyes. There are different variations which can be locked to the foot pedals, transmission shift stick or handbrake.

The drawback is that they have to be attached manually and can be overcome by cutting through the steering wheel.

Another manual device, but one more time consuming and awkward to fit, is the rim or wheel clamp, used to great effect in London by the police to immobilise illegally parked cars.

''The more visible a device, the better it is,'' said an HKAA official. However, he said that as effective as these systems were, ''people are lazy and don't always fit them, particularly when they are in a hurry''.

Other systems available include a hydraulic brake lock and even a satellite tracking system for the car. In Hongkong, however, such a system is of limited value when, as one security consultant pointed out, ''your car could easily be parked in downtown Shenzhen within 40 minutes of disappearing''.

The HKAA said other precautions which drivers could take were to park in well-lit and commonly frequented car parks, never to leave a parking card inside the vehicle, check doors and windows were locked and that any alarm system was armed.

''No car is thief-proof,'' said the HKAA, ''all you are trying to do is deter the thief and make the car as unattractive as possible by causing him the maximum trouble and inconvenience.''