Vehicle thefts jump 30 per cent in three years

27 Sep, 2017 9:50am Martin Saarinen

Over 85,000 vehicles were stolen last year as thieves use high-tech devices to bypass modern safety systems, new figures show

Vehicle thefts have risen by nearly a third in the last three years, as thieves use high-tech devices to bypass modern security systems, new figures reveal.

*Over 85,000 vehicles were stolen in England and Wales last year, up from 66,000 in 2013, according to Freedom of Information requests sent by the RAC.

The 30 per cent rise is partly attributable to more thieves using high-tech means to steal vehicles, prompting calls for old-school anti-theft devices like steering locks to make a comeback.

More vehicles were stolen in London than anywhere else, according to the figures. Last year the Metropolitan Police dealt with 26,496 vehicle thefts, close to a third of all reported thefts. This is up from 20,565 from 2013.

West Midlands and West Yorkshire saw the second and third highest numbers of vehicle thefts, with 5,930 and 5,597 vehicles stolen respectively. West Yorkshire Police have had to deal with a 57 per cent rise in vehicle thefts since 2013. 

RAC Insurance director Mark Godfrey said: “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. 

“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.” 

The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) said that new cars "have never been more secure and the latest technology has helped bring down theft dramatically." It also pointed out the number of vehicle thefts represents 0.3 per cent of the vehicle population in the UK, but added: "However, technology can only do so much, and we continue to call for stronger safeguards to prevent the sale of cloning technologies, signal blocking and other devices that have no legal purpose." 

Thefts from vehicles up by 8 per cent 

Vehicle thefts aren't the only thing on the rise, as thefts from cars have gone up over the last 12 months. Vehicles were broken into 250,000 times, an increase of eight per cent compared to the year before.

Car security: how the industry is staying one step ahead of the criminals

The figures, from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), go against the long-term trend of decreasing vehicle-related offences in the UK. Car crime hit a 20-year low in early 2016 and the number of vehicle thefts and break-ins have halved overall in the last 10 years.

John Flatley, of the ONS, said the figures showed “the largest annual rise in crimes recorded by the police in a decade”.

The statistics come as a Home Office report reveals the number of police officers at its lowest since 1985. Steve White, chair of the Police Federation of England and Wales, said: “What more of a wake-up call does the government need?

“Government need to start to invest now in backing the police service so that it can carry out its primary responsibility, which is the safety and security of its citizens. These figures demonstrate that this has not happened.”

Have you been a victim of car crime? Let us know in the comments...