Car theft across south east London and north Kent is rapidly rising due to organised criminals targeting keyless vehicles.

Last year saw an eight per cent rise in vehicle theft across London, with more than 6,000 cars and vans stolen without the owners' keys.

192 keyless cars were stolen in Greenwich, which was the highest amount in south London

The majority of the thefts appear to be the result of criminals using key-programming devices to create duplicate keys for vehicles.

In response, Metropolitan Police have launched Operation Endeavour, urging drivers to "protect their vehicle like they would their home".

Lead for Operation Endeavour, Detective Chief Inspector Carl Bussey, said: "We believe that organised crime groups using this technique are responsible for the theft of thousands of vehicles in London.

"Many of those that we have already arrested in connection with keyless vehicle theft have previous links to other types of serious crime."

Neighbourhood policing teams are holding crime prevention events, targeted patrols and will be leafleting to raise awareness of this.

Officers will also be setting up check-and-advise points, stopping vehicles to check they are being driven by the legitimate drivers and providing owners with advice on protecting vehicles.

Superintendent Bussey added: "Last year alone we arrested almost 1,000 people for vehicle theft, and with more coordinated activity we aim to reduce vehicle theft by 20 per cent by 2016.

"We know criminals are targeting all sorts of vehicles - not just the most expensive - so if you value your vehicle, then it is worth investing time and money on extra security."

Figures for Bexley show a similar amount of thefts to Greenwich, with 176 keyless cars being stolen.

However, figures for Lewisham and Bromley were lower, with 120 thefts in Bromley and 116 thefts in Lewisham.

Models of keyless vehicles popular amongst thieves are Ford Transit and Mercedes Sprinter vans, Ford Fiestas and some BMW and Land Rover models.

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