A SPIKE in thefts of ‘keyless’ cars has hit homeowners in a wealthy area of Bolton.

Police believe residents in Heaton are being targeted due to the abundance of ‘high value cars’ with automatic fobs in the area.

They say burglars are using a relay amplifier and transmitter to pick up a signal from the fobs.

The amplifier can detect the fob’s signal from inside a house, and send it to the transmitter, which can then be used to gain entry to the car, switch it on, and drive off.

Officers warned residents gathered at the Heaton and Lostock area forum on Wednesday evening to ensure their fobs were kept in a secure location away from their front door, and suggested protecting vehicles using a steering wheel lock.

A Jaguar was stolen from outside Kathleen Woodward’s home in Old Kiln Lane last month. She said: “The car had been locked, but there was no evidence of a break-in.

“When we talked to our neighbour, they said they had had one stolen from their drive. A week after, their car was stolen again.”

Ms Woodward, aged 67, was later informed that her car had been found close to Horwich Police Station days later.

However, she expressed frustration that she had not been informed of the discovery until several weeks later, by which time she had almost purchased another car.

She added that vehicle theft was ‘rife’ in the area, and had left residents feeling unsafe.

Another resident said they had recently had tools stolen from inside a van, and had captured the culprits on CCTV.

However, they said that despite offering the footage to police, nothing had been done about it.

Sergeant Gary Howard told the residents gathered at Rumworth School that police would continue working to investigate vehicle thefts, despite limited resources.

He cited the example of two prolific offenders who had been operating in the area, who had been jailed within the last six months.

Meanwhile, Heaton and Lostock councillor Andy Morgan encouraged residents living in the area to form a WhatsApp group to report incidents in order to warn fellow residents and form a pattern for officers.

Speaking after the meeting, Ms Woodward’s partner Richard Wellburn, aged 66, welcomed the idea of setting up a neighbourhood watch group, but added: “It is extremely concerning. It is the people at the sharp end who are left having sleepless nights, worrying about their cars. We have had estimates for CCTV on my house and I have had a removable bollard installed on my drive because I am concerned someone is going round targeting cars with keyless entry.

“I am having to spend money protecting my property so that I feel comfortable going to bed at night.

“We appreciate the pressures police are under, and if there is anything we can do to help support them, we are willing to.”