Sharp rise in vehicle theft

Vehicle theft has risen by over 50% to the highest level in four years.

Over 150,000 vehicles were stolen in Great Britain in 2018/19 – 10,000 more than the year before and a 56% increase compared to four years earlier, according to research by RAC Insurance.

All but three police forces who responded to the Freedom of Information request recorded an increase in the numbers of vehicles stolen in their force areas from 2014/15 and 2018/19. The largest increases in terms of vehicle numbers were in the Metropolitan Police (up 9,635 to 30,773 thefts, a 46% increase) and West Midlands (up 5,677 to 10,372 thefts, a 121% increase) force areas.

Suffolk (up 172% from 347 to 945 thefts), Surrey (up 133% from 661 to 1,543 thefts) and the West Midlands saw the biggest percentage increases.

Six forces in all recorded a more than doubling in the number of vehicles stolen between 2014-15 and 2018-19 and only Lincolnshire, the City of London and Police Scotland recorded a reduction in thefts over this period (reductions of 28, 29 and 473 thefts respectively).

Year-on-year comparisons also show a worrying trend in rising vehicle crime between 2017/18 and 2018/19, with 32 forces recording a rise in thefts during this period. 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% more than in 2017-18), followed by the West Midlands (up 836 to 10,372 thefts, 9% more than 2017-18).

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.

He added, “One crumb of comfort from the data however is that the increases might be starting to plateau, and it will be interesting to discover just what effect the coronavirus lockdown has on vehicle thefts when the data becomes available.

“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.”

To read the full story and to check the percentage changes of reported vehicles thefts in your area, visit the RAC website here.