Leading Article: No longer safe, even in a moving car

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LUXURY and high performance cars have long been at risk from thieves when parked anywhere other than in a garage - and sometimes even there. So have any valuables or accessories left in them. What is relatively new is the trend towards robbery from, and theft of, cars being driven ('car-jacking'). It could be that a brick is thrown through the windscreen or side window of a car stationary at traffic lights; the car's door is yanked open and the driver dragged out; or the driver is driven off and raped.

In either event, the assailant has the choice of robbing the driver of his or her personal effects, and any baggage, or driving off in the car - or all three. In other instances, cars have been rammed from behind or squeezed off motorways before being driven away, leaving their occupants stranded. There was an ugly example of this in the early hours of Sunday, when a pounds 75,000 Mercedes sports car was rammed as it left the M25. Two men, one wielding a gun, assaulted the owner, stole her valuable jewellery (she had been to a party at the Dorchester Hotel in Mayfair), and drove off in her car. Such crimes are alarming by any standards, but especially so for women. Many have taken to their cars because they feel the streets have become too dangerous for them. Now they find themselves assaulted in what they once regarded as a haven - not just for them, but for their children.

Certain precautions can be taken: locking all doors; not stopping when rammed or told that something is amiss, except at a safe point such as a service station; having a mobile telephone - and so on. But in the last analysis, a single person in a valuable car in an isolated spot will remain vulnerable to a determined and brutal thief.

It may be comforting that such crimes remain relatively rare; that they reflect the growing effectiveness of measures to stop the theft of parked cars; and that a further toughening of windscreens and windows would considerably reduce existing dangers. Yet the time has surely come for the police, rather than motoring organisations, to provide the public with advice on how best to deal with this very unpleasant phenomenon.