The increase is a major blow to a five-year Government plan to slash vehicle crime by 25% between 1998/9 and 2003/4, which had been on target until this year.
A new Home Office publication, Crime in England and Wales 2001/02, reveals that year-on-year, overall recorded vehicle crime rose from 968,447 offences to 983,323, compared to a target of 940,000. Although thefts of vehicles fell by 3%, thefts from vehicles rose by 4%.
It suggested there were 2,597,000 vehicle thefts in 2001/02, of which 1,560,000 were thefts from vehicles and 330,000 were thefts of vehicles. The remaining 707,000 were attempted thefts.
Items most commonly stolen were car parts (37%), car radios (24%) and valuables (18%).
Efforts by manufacturers to combat theft are responsible for a wholesale reduction in theft of vehicles, the report said, particularly the fitting of electronic immobilisers.
It added: 'The newer the car, the less chance there is that it will be stolen. Those registered in 2000 had a theft rate of just two per 1,000, while cars that are 12 and 13 years old had a theft rate of 26 cars per 1,000.'