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Vehicle thefts in England and Wales rise 21% in three years, finds AX

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The number of vehicles stolen in England and Wales rose by more than one-fifth (21%) between 2016 and 2019, according to a freedom of information request by AX.

Responses obtained from police forces across England and Wales found much of that increase occurred between 2016/2017 and 2017/2018, with a ride of 14.1%.

The report follows research by Verizon Connect earlier this year, which found the average fleet loses around £16,000 per year as a result of vehicle or equipment theft.

Neil Thomas, director of investigative services at the provider of intelligent vehicle protection and management technologies and a former detective inspector, said: “While the lockdown may temporally reduce some types of car theft, criminals are using increasingly intelligent ways to steal vehicles and continue to find success.

“The combination of organised crime getting smarter and ability to make quick returns has drastically increased pressure on police forces to control the theft of motor vehicles.

“Car thieves are opportunists and have no respect for property and will remain determined to carry on illegal activity despite the current restrictions on movement across the UK. I have 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 vigilant and do what they can to keep their car safe while they’re using them less frequently, if at all.”

Of the 17 police forces that responded, Nottinghamshire and Staffordshire Police saw the largest increases, with Nottinghamshire Police reporting an overall rise of 60%.

Hertfordshire, Surrey, West Midlands and Essex Police each saw overall surges of more than 40%.

However, some forces have seen a decrease in motor vehicle thefts, including Merseyside Police and Avon and Somerset Constabulary. Humberside Police reported the largest drop, with a decrease of 36%.



Biggest increases in stolen vehicles*

Police Force

Total Reported Stolen Vehicles

% Change since 16/17













West Midlands









Biggest decreases in reported stolen vehicles*

Police Force

Total Reported Stolen Vehicles

% Change since 16/17













Avon and Somerset






AX has issued some advice for keeping cars safe off the road:

  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 to prevent criminals from ‘fishing’ them through your letter box. The safety of everyone in your home is much more important though, so avoid taking the keys upstairs with you as it could put families at risk.

  1. Double check electronic locking

Always manually check your vehicle is locked before walking away.  Electronic devices that jam the signal from your key fob to prevent your car locking are increasingly common among car thieves.

  1. Consider turning off keyless technology

Many systems can be temporarily switched off to prevent electronic compromise and keyless theft and you can consult your local dealer to help do this. You may also wish to place your keys into a signal blocking Faraday pouch.

  1. 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 alert each other of suspicious activity in the local area.

  1. Don’t despair

If the worst does happen, there are tracking solutions and vehicle recovery services available to help you locate and recover your vehicle, which could save you from an expensive insurance claim and an increased premium at renewal.

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