New figures from the Home Office show an alarming increase in vehicle thefts, up almost 50% in the past five years.
In the financial year 2013-14, the figures reveal that some 75,308 vehicles were stolen, but by 2017-18 that had risen to 111,999 – the equivalent of one vehicle being stolen every five minutes or 300 a day.
RAC Insurance director Mark Godfrey does not believe the figures are going to get much better any time soon either. “The current financial year has also not started well, with nearly 60,000 vehicle thefts already recorded up to the end of last September.
“They also paint a very depressing picture of a society where it is all too easy for gangs of thieves to break in and steal vehicles, and where there are fewer police officers to catch them and bring them to justice.”
From 2013 to 2018, Godfrey says that there were 5,975 fewer police officers, but looking further back to 2006 the story is even worse, with 21,958 fewer officers – a 15% reduction.
He continued: “Every vehicle stolen and not returned safely to its owner represents a cost that is borne by every motorist who lawfully pays their insurance.
“If the number of thefts could be reduced, then insurance premiums would undoubtedly be lower. Aside from this it is impossible to underestimate the impact on individuals and business who suffer from this type of crime.”
The Home Office figures also show that thefts from vehicles have increased, with 258,346 such incidents being recorded in 2016-17, a figure that increased by 8.4%, to 280,032 in 2017-18.
Mike Hawes, chief executive of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), said: “Industry works closely with the Home Office, police authorities and other agencies to share intelligence in the fight against vehicle crime and fully supports this initiative as part of intensive efforts to stay one step ahead of the criminals.
"Manufacturers are investing billions of pounds on an ongoing basis to tackle the problem, with security features such as sophisticated immobilisers, tracking devices and encrypted key codes, as well as regular software updates to help protect vehicles throughout their lives.”
The publication of the Home Office figures comes after the policing minister, Nick Hurd, announced a new taskforce to tackle vehicle theft.
The taskforce replicates the successful model used to reduce moped-related crime in London, which fell by a third in the period from January to October 2018 compared with the same period in 2017 last year.
It will drive forward action to reduce and prevent vehicle crime and promote best practice.
The taskforce will meet every six months and publish an action plan with new measures.
It includes representatives from: the National Police Chiefs’ Council; the SMMT; Thatcham Research; Retail Motor Industry; Motorcycle Industry Association; and the Association of British Insurers.
Chairing the first meeting, Hurd said: “We are determined to take swift and decisive action on emerging crime threats. With rates of vehicle theft increasing, I am keen to ensure everything is being done to prevent these crimes.
“Drawing together the police, industry and Government proved to be a successful way to see what more could be done to support police efforts to tackle moped crime and I’m eager to see the results of applying a similar model to vehicle theft.
“I’m confident the taskforce will significantly strengthen our response to vehicle theft.”
The taskforce intends to improve vehicle security standards across the industry ensure robust measures are in place to prevent criminals exploiting the motor salvage process and review whether further measures are required to stop devices that may be used to commit vehicle theft falling into criminals’ hands.