THIEVES can steal from locked car boots in just over 30 seconds.

And they can smash a window, grab valuables from seats and be gone in about 10 seconds.

The quick ways that thieves operate have been highlighted in the latest bid to get people to make life harder for the criminals.

Victims still leave valuables - such as mobile phones, handbags and laptop computers - on show in their cars, making them irresistible targets for thieves.

An ex-car thief said: "I've seen people leave stuff on display in their cars. They even leave windows open and don't lock their doors.

"It takes maybe 30 to 60 seconds to get in and out of someone's boot. It's even quicker to just smash a window and nick what's on display.

"It's in, out and gone in seconds."

Over the past five years vehicle crime has fallen by more than 30% countrywide.

But there are still nearly 2m vehicle-related thefts each year - and many could be prevented.

Bob Quick, of the Association of Chief Police Officers, said: "In the long run the only way to defeat car criminals is to make breaking into a car a pointless exercise.

"Don't leave laptop computers, briefcases, mobile phones or other valuable items in your car.

"If you really can't take them with you, lock them out of sight in the boot."

* Always keep your car locked - even when going to pay for petrol.

* Don't leave anything in your car, particularly when it is parked overnight. Some 63% of thefts of and from vehicles happen when they are parked outside or near the home.

* When you're out and about park in busy or well-lit areas near CCTV cameras or in police-approved car parks.

* Never leave your car keys near a door or window. Some thieves use a fishing rod, or even a magnet on a stick, to steal them through the letterbox.

* Have your car's number etched on to all glass surfaces, including headlights, windows and windscreens.

* Keep windows rolled up, especially when you're making slow progress in traffic. It only takes a few seconds at traffic lights for a thief to reach in and grab whatever you've left on a seat.