The number of car thefts rose by 21 percent between 2016 and 2019, according to data from a Freedom of Information (FOI) request.
Of the police forces that responded, Nottinghamshire saw the largest increase, with the county’s constabulary reporting an overall rise of 59.7 percent. Nearly 1,500 cars were stolen between 2018 and 2019.
Staffordshire Police reported a similar rise (53.8 percent), while there was a 50 percent increase in Hertfordshire.
It’s not all bad news. There was a 78.7 percent fall in car theft in Wiltshire, with just 156 stolen in 2018/19. Car crime was also down in Humberside (-35.8 percent), Merseyside (-26.9 percent) and Avon and Somerset (-3.5 percent).
Neil Thomas, director of investigative services at accident aftercare company AX, 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.”
Biggest increases in stolen vehicles
- Nottinghamshire: 59.7 percent
- Staffordshire: 53.8 percent
- Hertfordshire: 50.0 percent
- West Midlands: 44.6 percent
- Surrey: 44.1 percent
Biggest decreases in stolen vehicles
- Wiltshire: -78.7 percent
- Humberside: -35.8 percent
- Merseyside: -26.9 percent
- Avon and Somerset: -3.5 percent
Keeping your car secure during the lockdown
Thomas, who is a former detective inspector, has the following advice for keeping your car safe when not in use.
- Keep your keys safe. Store your car keys away from the front door to prevent criminals from ‘fishing’ them through the letterbox. Avoid taking the keys upstairs. Click here for how to avoid becoming a victim of keyless car theft.
- Check the doors are locked. Electronic devices that jam the signal from your key fob are increasingly common.
- Consider disabling keyless technology. Many systems can be temporarily switched off to prevent electronic compromise.
- Review your home security. Consider the installation of motion-detecting CCTV at your property.
- Don’t despair. If the worst happens, there are tracking solutions and recovery services available to help you locate your vehicle.
A total of 17 police forces responded to the FOI.