Vehicle thefts across England and Wales have soared by more than a fifth in the last three years, according to police data.
Thefts jumped by 21 per cent between 2016 and 2019, with a 14 per cent rise in a single year, according to figures released to vehicle innovation firm AX under a Freedom of Information request.
The data released by forces across the two countries shows significant differences between regions, with some experiencing increases of 60 per cent while others reported similar sized falls in thefts.
Of the forces that responded, Nottinghamshire and Staffordshire Police saw thelargest increases, with Nottinghamshire reporting an overall rise of 60 per cent and Staffordshire an increase of 54 per cent.
Hertfordshire (50 per cent) West Midlands (44 per cent) and Surrey (44 per cent) also saw above average increase in thefts over the three year period. West Midlands reported the overall highest number of thefts, with 7,883 recorded incidents in 2018/19.
At the opposite end of the scale, motorists’ pride and joy is far safer in Wiltshire and Humberside, where there have been 78 and 36 per cent decreases since 2016. Merseyside also saw a significant decrease - 27 per cent - while there was a small drop in Avon and Somerset (3.5 per cent).
Neil Thomas, AX’s director of investigative services and a former Detective Inspector, said that organised gangs targeting specific vehicles with modern interception technology had driven the recent increase in thefts.
He said: “While the lockdown may temporarily reduce some types of car theft,criminals are using increasingly intelligent ways to steal vehicles and continue to findsuccess. The combination of organised crime getting smarter and ability to make quickreturns has drastically increased pressure on police forces to control the theft of motorvehicles.
“Car thieves are opportunists and have no respect for property and will remain determinedto carry on illegal activity despite the current restrictions on movement across the UK. Ihave even seen recent reports of vehicles belonging to key workers being stolen.
“During this period of lockdown, it’s even more important that car owners remain vigilantand do what they can to keep their car safe while they’re using them less frequently, if atall.”
Tips for keeping your car safe
1. Keep your keys, and yourself, safe and secure
Most thieves need the keys to steal your car, so keep them away from the front door toprevent criminals from ‘fishing’ them through your letter box. The safety of everyone inyour home is much more important though, so avoid taking the keys upstairs with youas it could put families at risk.
2. Double check electronic locking
Always manually check your vehicle is locked before walking away. Electronic devicesthat jam the signal from your key fob to prevent your car locking are increasinglycommon among car thieves.
3. Consider turning off keyless technology
Many keyless entry and start systems can be temporarily switched off to prevent electronic compromise and keyless theft. You can consult your local dealer to help do this. You may also wish to place your keys into a signal blocking Faraday pouch.
4. Review your home security
Consider installing motion detecting CCTV at your home to deter thieves. Virtual‘neighbourhood watch’ schemes via social media or WhatsApp can also help alerteach other of suspicious activity in the local area.
5. Don’t despair
If the worst does happen, there are tracking solutions and vehicle recovery servicesavailable to help you locate and recover your vehicle, which could save you from anexpensive insurance claim and an increased premium at renewal.