FEARS have been raised that thieves are now using gadgets to break into and steal high-value cars without any need for the key.

Crime scene investigator Vikki Jones, who works at Basildon police station, said there was evidence that thieves have been using types of car jamming devices known as signal blockers.

The devices help criminals bypass car coding and reprogramme vehicles before driving off in them.

One method of stealing is “signal jamming” where a thief sends a code on a radio frequency as you lock your car with the remote fob to bar the signal.

It means the car doesn’t actually lock. Miss Jones said: “I know that some thieves are bypassing security in the car, they are using signal blockers or they can get false keys made.

“We come across it quite a lot.

“High-value BMWs and Mercedes have been stolen and we are not sure how.

“Thieves are bypassing the locks somehow.”

Ray Packman, 33, of London Road, Wickford, was shocked to wake up last Thursday morning to discover that his green BMW convertible had disappeared off his driveway - although his home had not been burgled.

He believes that he has been targeted by thieves using car jamming devices.

His car was picked up on an ANPR camera in Runwell Road at about 2am.

He said: “My wife opened the blinds and said that the car wasn’t on the drive. I thought she was joking at first.

“I didn’t have a lot inside the car, just some CDs and some clothing, nothing of any real value.

“I don’t know how they stole it but they must have used some sort of electronic device.

“I have sent both keys off to the car insurance.

“There was no break-in at my house, all that was moved was a plant pot so I think they might have checked to see if a key was underneath.”

It is understood that a BMW X5 was stolen from somebody’s driveway in Wick Lane last week.

Mr Packman added: “There needs to be an increase in police visibility.

“It’s ridiculous.

“I want people to realise that this has been going on - get a steering lock, a clamp or be vigilant when locking your cars.”

Anyone with information about car thefts can call Essex Police on 101 or crime-fighting charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111.