Vehicle thefts hit highest level in four years

Thieves use keys to access vehicles in around half of crimes, government data shows

More than 150,000 motor vehicles were stolen in Great Britain in the year 2018-19, 10,000 more than the year before and a 56 per cent increase compared to four years earlier, according to data analysed by RAC Insurance.

Almost all police forces that responded to a Freedom of Information request recorded an increase in the numbers of vehicles stolen in their force areas from 2014-15 and 2018-19, with some stark differences across the country.

The largest increases in terms of vehicle numbers were in the Metropolitan Police (up 9,635 to 30,773 thefts, a 46 per cent increase) and West Midlands (up 5,677 to 10,372 thefts, a 121 per cent increase) force areas.

Six forces recorded a more than doubling in the number of vehicles stolen between 2014-15 and 2018-19, with the biggest jumps in Suffolk (up 172 per cent from 347 to 945 thefts), Surrey (up 133 per cent from 661 to 1,543 thefts) and the West Midlands.

Only Lincolnshire, the City of London and Police Scotland recorded a reduction in thefts over this period however, with reductions of 28, 29 and 473 thefts respectively.

Most police forces (32) also recorded a rise in vehicle thefts year-on-year, between 2017-18 and 2018-19.

Essex saw the largest rise as well as the largest number of overall vehicles stolen in 2018-19 (up 1,056 to 5,409 thefts, 24 per cent more than in 2017-18) followed by the West Midlands (up 836 to 10,372 thefts, 9 per cent more than 2017-18).

When looking at the biggest percentage increases over this 12 month period, Suffolk witnessed the highest jump with 44 per cent more thefts (945 in 2018-19 compared to 655 a year earlier), followed by Bedfordshire (37 per cent increase, from 1,056 to 1,445 thefts) and North Wales (32 per cent increase, from 464 to 612 thefts).

RAC Insurance spokesperson Simon Williams said: “These figures paint a rather disturbing picture – vehicle thefts are on the rise almost everywhere, and in some parts of the country numbers are rocketing.

“It’s also not the case that the rises in crime are confined to a few larger urban areas, with many police forces covering more rural areas also seeing big increases.

“Some of the increases in recent years can be put down to a rise in thefts of vehicles that are easier to steal, such as motorbikes and mopeds that are less likely to have immobilisers.

“Government data also shows that thieves generally use keys to access vehicles in around half of crimes, which suggests perhaps some drivers could do more to keep their keys safe.

“And in an estimated fifth of cases (18% in 2018), thieves were able to access cars because one or more cars weren’t locked in the first place.”

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