The number of vehicles stolen in England and Wales has increased by 30% in just three years, according to data seen by RAC Insurance.
A freedom of information request showed that a total of 65,783 vehicles were reported stolen in 2013 to 40 police forces in England and Wales, but by 2016 this had risen to 85,688.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, more vehicles are stolen in London than anywhere else in the UK with 26,496 thefts being reported to the Metropolitan Police Force in 2016 – this equates to nearly a third of all vehicles stolen (31%). Similar to the national trend, this represented a 29% increase on 2013 when 20,565 were stolen.
Outside London, the region with the highest reported number of vehicles stolen is the West Midlands with West Midlands Police reporting 5,930 thefts, a 43% increase on 2013 (4,161) and a 33% on 2015 (4,474), closely followed by West Yorkshire Police with 5,597 which recorded a 57% rise when compared to the 2013 figures.
Third spot outside of London in the vehicle theft table is the Greater Manchester police force which saw 4,999 stolen vehicles in 2016. Fourth was Essex on 3,623 and Thames Valley Police was fifth with 2,799.
RAC Insurance director Mark Godfrey said: “Unfortunately, these figures show a very unwelcome rise in the theft of vehicles from much lower numbers in 2013.
“Technology advances in immobilisers, keys and car alarms had caused the number of vehicle thefts to decrease significantly from more than 300,000 in 2002, but sadly they have now increased after bottoming out in 2013 and 2014.
“We fear thieves are now becoming more and more well equipped with technology capable of defeating car manufacturers’ anti-theft systems. This is bad news for motorists as it has the effect of causing insurance premiums to rise at a time when they are already being pushed up by a variety of factors, not least the recent change to the discount rate for life-changing personal injury compensation claims and the rises in insurance premium tax.
“Drivers can also take certain steps to reduce the likelihood of their vehicle being stolen, for example parking in well-lit areas, not leaving anything valuable on view inside and, of course, never leaving the keys in the ignition when they’re not in the car, something that tends to happen on cold mornings when de-icing vehicles.
“In addition, anti-theft devices such as steering wheel locks which were popular in the 1980s and early 1990s are starting to make a comeback as they are still a very effective visible deterrent. This is quite ironic as they were replaced a number of years ago by alarms and immobilisers, which until now, offered better theft prevention.
“Telematics – or black box – technology is another potentially useful weapon in the fight against car theft. We have seen several instances where we have been able to track stolen vehicles using RAC Telematics devices and have even helped the police recover vehicles successfully.”