A South Normanton man is warning Derbyshire motorists to be on their guard with keyless car entry systems after foiling an attempted theft from his driveway.
Web designer Simon Vaulks, 44, was at home on Edale Drive, and in the kitchen preparing a bottle for his young daughter, when he noticed lights flash in his driveway at around 12.40am on Thursday, November 15.
He said: “Ordinarily I would have thought nothing of it, but two weeks ago there were five vehicles broken into in the neighbourhood and things stolen, including from our boot, so I’ve been on edge ever since.
“I ran to the window and could see there was someone in the car, so I ran to the front door and there was another one there holding a device to the glass to scan for the key signal.”
The doors on Simon’s Mitsubishi Outlander are designed to open when an electronic key comes within a certain distance of the lock.
However, thieves using sophisticated technology can read a key’s signature from inside a building and create an instant copy to gain entry to the vehicle.
Simon, a married father of two, said: “I had no hesitation, it was just fight or flight. I slammed my hand on the door handle, threw it open and shouted.
“They scarpered quickly and I chased after them, then saw there was a third person waiting round the corner who must have been the getaway driver.”
He added: “I kept chasing them for about 50-100 yards and nearly caught one, but then I realised what might happen if the other two turned on me so I had to stop.
“I ran back home and called 999. A squad car arrived within two minutes and then sped off in the direction the thieves had gone.”
Given the speed and intensity of the situation, Simon is unable to give a good description of the thieves - who were also careful to conceal their identities.
Simon said: “They were all wearing dark clothing and all three had their hoods up, so I could only see their eyes. I have a security camera in the porch but the one who came to the door held his hand over his face.
“It came to light afterwards that another neighbour had seen them pull up at the end of the street in what we think was a Vauxhall Astra.”
Three men were arrested for breaking into cars in the nearby Riddings, Somercotes, and Leabrooks areas in the early hours of Friday, November 16 but, at this stage, police say they are not linking the two cases.
While officers continue their investigations, Simon is urging vehicle owners to take precautions with their keys.
He said: “After the first break-in, I bought a metal box to keep the keys in. I think the only reason the thieves couldn’t start my car was because they would struggle to get a strong enough signal. If I hadn’t been in the kitchen, chances are they would have got away with it.”
“I’m now keeping the keys wrapped in tin foil inside a Faraday pouch, which blocks any scanners.”
He added: “I’ve lived on the Ripon estate for five years and never known anything like this until now.
“The neighbourhood has quite a few commuters living here with some nice cars, and I think it’s a target because thieves can get straight on to the motorway very quickly.
“Keyless entry is fairly new technology which used to be on very high-end vehicles, but now it’s trickling down into more and more cars and so more people need to be careful.”
Anyone with information which might assist the police should contact PC Daniel Bird on 101 and quote incident number 18000554377.