The number of vehicles stolen in England and Wales has risen by nearly a third in the last three years, according to police data.
Between 2013 and 2016 the number of vehicles reported stolen rose from 65,783 to 85,688 – a 30 per cent increase, with increasingly sophisticated criminal techniques being blamed by some observers.
Conversely, in Scotland reported vehicle thefts were down 12 per cent between 2012/13 and 2015/16 – from 5,0731 to 5,028.
The data was revealed in response to a Freedom of Information request by RAC Insurance and showed, perhaps unsurprisingly, that London was the UK’s car crime capital, with 26,496 vehicles taken in 2016 – almost a third of all thefts in England and Wales.
RAC Insurance director Mark Godfrey said: “Unfortunately, these figures show a very unwelcome rise in the theft of vehicles from much lower numbers in 2013.
“Anti-theft devices such as steering wheel locks which were popular in the 1980s and early 1990s are starting to make a comeback as they are still a very effective visible deterrent”
Mark Godfrey, RAC Insurance
“Technology advances in immobilisers, keys and car alarms had caused the number of vehicle thefts to decrease significantly from more than 300,000 in 2002 but sadly they have now increased after bottoming out in 2013 and 2014.
“We fear thieves are now becoming more and more well equipped with technology capable of defeating car manufacturers’ anti-theft systems. This is bad news for motorists as it has the effect of causing insurance premiums to rise at a time when they are already being pushed up by a variety of factors, not least the recent change to the discount rate for life-changing personal injury compensation claims and the rises in insurance premium tax.”
After London, the West Midlands saw the highest outright number of thefts – 5,930. West Yorkshire saw the third-highest number of thefts – 5,597 – but this represented the highest jump in crimes – a huge 57 per cent increase on the 2013 figures. In comparison, London saw a 29 per cent rise and the West Midlands experienced a 43 per cent rise between 2013 and 2016.
“Drivers can take certain steps to reduce the likelihood of their vehicle being stolen,” commented Mark Godfrey, “for example parking in well-lit areas, not leaving anything valuable on view inside and, of course, never leaving the keys in the ignition when they’re not in the car, something that tends to happen on cold mornings when de-icing vehicles.
“In addition, anti-theft devices such as steering wheel locks which were popular in the 1980s and early 1990s are starting to make a comeback as they are still a very effective visible deterrent. This is quite ironic as they were replaced a number of years ago by alarms and immobilisers, which until now, offered better theft prevention.
“Telematics – or black box – technology is another potentially useful weapon in the fight against car theft. We have seen several instances where we have been able to track stolen vehicles using telematics devices and have even helped the police recover vehicles successfully.”