A POPULAR farmyard and garden centre has brought in 'dog patrols' and heightened security after thieves targeted customers' cars.

Criminals were reportedly prowling around the car park of Millets Farm at the weekend, using gadgets to unlock unattended vehicles.

The family-friendly attraction, in Frilford near Abingdon, told customers that police had been informed and the suspects had been 'caught in action'.

In a post on the farm's Facebook page, staff wrote: "We just wanted to thank everyone for making us aware of the situation happening with car key cloning in our car park over the weekend.

"We have increased our security further on site, with dog patrols and more.

"If anyone has any further information from the incidents then please private message us, we are taking this very seriously."

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Customers praised the garden centre on social media for its prompt response.

One woman, commenting on Facebook, said: "This is why Millets Farm is so an amazing place for all ages.

"You listen to the customers and always help."

Another added: "Well done for being so proactive!

"Most places wouldn’t."

'Key hacking' or relay theft is among several 'keyless car theft' methods that drivers have been warned of in recent years.

According to the RAC, it allows thieves to unlock a car when the key is nearby, without pressing a button on the fob or putting it in the lock.

They use electronic car relay boxes, placing one near the key to receive the signals it emits, and then boosting that signal to another device near the car, tricking it into unlocking the doors.

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Signals can be picked up even if the key is inside a pocket, handbag or even from inside a house, if the key is close enough.

If the car has a keyless ignition, they can then start up the engine at the press of a button.

Special boxes can be purchased for keys to block the signals, and some experts have even suggested wrapping keys in aluminium foil as a cheaper alternative.

Millets did not state if it was the actual cars thieves had attempted to steal, or if they were trying to make off with valuables from inside.

It is not clear if they successfully stole anything before being caught.

Thames Valley Police and Millets Farm have been contacted for more information.

Last year police warned of another keyless method being used by thieves at service stations, including Cherwell Valley near Bicester and Welcome Break near Oxford.

They had been using a jamming device to block the signal from keys when the driver locked it, meaning drivers were unwittingly heading in to get food or use the facilities without having locked their doors.

Thieves stole laptops and luggage after searching the cars for valuables.

Police advised people to try the doors to ensure their car was safely locked, before heading inside.