Smash and grab thefts on the rise in Chiswick

Image above: Van broken into in Chiswick (2020)

“They did it right in front of me as I stood there. They were totally unconcerned”

Eye witness account by Billy Beatty

On Tuesday evening I was heading home from the Chiswick Area Forum. I was there to speak about Hogarth Youth Centre, my place of work. I spoke to local councillors about the importance of keeping our young people safe and the need for increased lighting on the alleyway linking Duke Road to the A4.

I was just walking past Nando’s on the Old Market Place parade when I spotted two men wearing all black, on pushbikes, using torches to look into cars. Unbelievably while I was stood there they broke into six vehicles, helping themselves to bags and belongings of the owners.

This type of crime is on the rise in Chiswick and the fact they did this in the same carpark where there was once a police station is ironic.

Over the past year I have spotted at least fifty cars with broken glass all over Chiswick. This isn’t just a problem isolated to Chiswick. At the end of 2022 AA Insurance Services says that theft from vehicles rose by 9.9%, with 212,900 people having items stolen from their vehicle compared to 193,647 the year before.

I spoke to a local resident who asked not to be named who was a victim of one of these thefts, and they said:

“I woke up one morning and my disabled badge was gone. They had smashed my driver’s side window and taken the badge that allows me to park outside of my home free of charge.

“I contacted the people who supply the badges and they sent a replacement but I had to wait up to a week for it and this worried me immensely as I thought I was going to get a parking ticket.”

The Metropolitan Police have set out steps to help protect yourself from these thefts:

1. Always lock it

Fuelling up or popping back into your house to get something are perfect examples of how easy it is to turn your back for a moment and forget your vehicle is unsecured. So get into the habit of locking your vehicle even if you’re only going to be away from it for a moment.

If your vehicle has wing mirrors that fold in automatically when locked, make sure you lock it properly. Criminal gangs are looking for vehicles like these where the wing mirrors are still out because it is clear to them that the vehicle has been left unlocked.

2. Close windows and the sun roof to prevent ‘fishing’

Leaving windows and the sunroof open invites fishing for items through the gap by hand or with, say, a bent coat hanger, which could also be used to unlock a door for them to get in. Thieves can be ingenious. Don’t give them the opportunity.

3. Secure your number plates with tamper-resistant screws

The easiest way to change the identity of a stolen vehicle or avoid speeding tickets and parking tickets is to fit stolen number plates. Using security screws to attach your vehicle’s number plates makes it harder for thieves to get your number.

4. Fit locking, anti-tamper wheel nuts to secure alloy wheels

Stolen wheels are valuable, either as parts or for their scrap value. Using locking wheel nuts reduces the risk of your vehicle’s wheels being stolen.

5. Secure anything that’s on the outside of your vehicle

Anything left on roof-racks, tailgate racks, holiday top boxes or in tool chests are easily stolen when the vehicle is parked. The use of cable locks, padlocks and self-locking tools chests, which are secured to the vehicle, makes them more secure, but still, don’t leave things in them if you can avoid it.