Car theft remains rare in Estonia

CCTV footage of a car theft.
CCTV footage of a car theft. Source: Police and Border Guard Board - Facebook

According to the Police and Border Guard Board (PPA), motor vehicle theft and break-ins have not been a major problem in Estonia over recent years. The PPA said that, while there are no signs the current challenging economic climate has led to an increase in car thefts thus far, the possibility cannot be completely ruled out in the future.

Data provided by the Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) reveals, that last year, a total of 91 motor vehicles were stolen throughout Estonia. According to the Estonian Ministry of Justice, this figure is 17 percent lower than in 2021.  So far this year, just four cars have been stolen in Estonia.

In the first month and a half of 2023, there have also been 35 incidents in which thieves have  broken into cars to steal personal belongings or spare parts. Last year there were a total of 285 incidents of this nature.

Head of the criminal bureau of the Northern Prefecture Urmet Tambre said, that most of the cases involved domestic thieves, however, some had also come from abroad, most often from Lithuania.

Tambre said, that those who do come from outside Estonia usually have a clear idea in advance of the type of car they are looking to steal. Recently, the Toyota Land Cruiser has been the vehicle of choice, but Audis, Volkswagens and other brands have also been targeted in the past.

Tambre explained, that last year, thieves discovered a new way to make a quick getaway in a Toyota Land Cruiser. The technique has been used in six cases in Estonia up to now, most recently in early February.

"In the last Toyota theft, the thieves accessed the vehicle via the front fender, where they plugged in a device, which enabled them to open the doors and start the engine," explained Tambre.

In the past, thieves have also stolen vehicles with keyless entry systems in a similar way, by extending the range of key's signal to unlock the doors and start the vehicle. Tambre therefore cautions against keeping keys belonging to vehicles with keyless entry systems too close to exterior doors or windows. "If possible, keep these kinds of keys in a metal box or a special security fob, which prevents contact with the vehicle," Tambre said.

In an interview with ETV show "Terevisioon" earlier this week, Tambre said, that because the number of car thefts in Estonia is so small, there is no one particular brand that thieves prefer.

"We want to reassure all car owners that they can rest easy. No particular brand of car is preferred (by thieves) at the moment, except for the Toyota Land Cruiser," said Tambre.

At a time when the cost of living has risen rapidly, Estonia has seen sharp rise in shoplifting. Despite this, Tambre said, that the PPA has no sign that the worsening socio-economic situation has caused any increase in car thefts or break-ins. However, the possibility of more car-related crime in the near future cannot be entirely ruled out, Tambre said.

Precautiions to prevent car theft

Tambre explained, that before undertaking a car theft, criminals often prepare in advance, therefore it is extremely important for people to be aware of suspicious activity in their local area.

So, if you spot a suspicious vehicle or people loitering in your local area, you should immediately inform the police, and also your neighbors.

Cars are usually stolen at night when people are asleep, with thieves most likely to take those, which are both easiest to access and provide them with the opportunity to make a quick getaway. "If possible, I recommend parking your vehicles in an enclosed garden, or a guarded or floodlit parking area. Be sure not to leave any important documents or gate keys in your vehicles," Tambre said.

He also pointed out, that thefts are more likely to occur when valuable items are visible through car windows. "These kinds of thefts are usually committed by local criminals who, as they pass by, smash a window, grab the item and then leave," he said.

Construction workers carrying tools in their vehicles should be particularly vigilant, Tambre said. "These items are still highly sought after on the black market and if a vehicle has a company logo on it for example, that suggests there might be something valuable inside. It is therefore more likely that a thief might try to steal it," said Tambre.


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Editor: Michael Cole

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