Car Crime Census 2013: The Full Story has conducted a comprehensive car crime census, giving a snapshot of hotspots, makes and models that are stolen in the UK. It's the first time that this level of detail has been made available to the general public.

Initial findings are that between October 2011 and September 2012, there were 378,808 reported offences, resulting in an average of 121 crimes per 10,000 vehicles. That's 1.2 per cent. The census has also taken into account the higher levels of crime in city centres by creating a national ‘urban’ average, which equates to 242 offences per 10,000 vehicles.  

Knowing when and where these crimes take place, along with an understanding of which cars are most vulnerable, could be invaluable for drivers, but until now there’s never been an in-depth study into vehicle crime. has wrote to the police forces of England and Wales with Freedom of Information Requests to get a better understanding of car crime. Of the 51 forces we approached, 42 replied with data and 29 of these included the make and model of all cars subject to crime. The result is a comprehensive snapshot of vehicle crime in England and Wales, with detailed analysis on vehicles stolen, manufacturers/models targeted and the type of crimes carried out.

The results are staggering. Our census shows a distinct north-south divide in relation to vehicle crime hotspots, with Manchester performing particularly poorly. According to our study, central Manchester is the car crime capital of England and Wales, with 505 offences per 10,000 registered vehicles.

According to our study, central Manchester is the car crime capital of England and Wales, with 505 offences per 10,000 registered vehicles.

Indeed, between October 2011 and September 2012, our census found theft of possessions accounting for almost half of all reported offences followed by criminal damage (39 per cent). However, theft of a vehicle accounted for just 13 per cent of crimes, suggesting that immobilisers are working, even if the associated alarm systems are not deterring criminals.

Explaining why central Manchester attracts so much crime is not easy, but one theory relates the high numbers with the fact that the city is a hub for visitors and passing traffic. Indeed, the city houses some of the UK’s largest shopping and exhibition centres, which attract thousands of cars - and people - every day. Also, as our study shows the rate per 10,000 cars registered to a postcode, smaller postcodes can come off worse. City centre postcodes tend to be very compact, have fewer cars registered to them and see a large amount of passing traffic. It's important to interpret the figures we have here in the right way. This high figure demonstrates the huge amount of through traffic and low numbers of registrations.

Our study also shows that, while the city centre has a high crime rate, the outer suburbs are significantly less affected, with the rate dropping by as much as 50 per cent as you travel a few miles away from the city centre. Clearly, the cover of the bustling streets and shopping centres, compared to the quieter and more isolated streets of the suburbs. The suburban postcodes tend to be slightly larger, too.

West Yorkshire emerged as another car crime hotspot, with Bradford seeing an average of 457 crimes per 10,000 vehicles, followed by Leeds with a slightly lower offences rate of 420. Other northern cities badly affected by car crime includes Sheffield whose rate was 1.7 times the national urban average at 389 offences per 10,000 vehicles, Newcastle with 318 offences per 10,000 vehicles and Liverpool with a rate of 287.

London was the largest southern city to feature in the top ten worst cities in’s Car Crime Census, with a rate of 443 crimes per 10,000 vehicles.

When it comes to individual makes, Suzuki, Mitsubishi and Mercedes-Benz Ford dominate the statistics for cars being stolen the most. According to our census, Suzuki owners are 237 per cent more at risk, compared to the national average, while Mitsubishi represents a huge 41 per increase. Untangling the crime statistics by manufacturer provides some interesting food for thought, with high end cars being stolen for order and cheaper models are targeted simply because they’re easier to break into. Imported cars are particularly vulnerable to attack, featuring less security features that make them far easier to steal.

Indeed, the majority of peronally-imported cars (grey imports) would struggle to meet the UK’s stringent security guidelines, with cars from places such as Japan found to be seriously lacking when it comes to alarms and immobilisers. The case in point is made particularly well when we consider that the most stolen car in England and Wales is the Mitsubishi Pajero. Essentially a cheaper version of the Shogun, the Pajero was imported into the UK in large numbers by small importers (rather than Mitsubishi UK) and private individuals and was quickly targeted by criminals due to its lack of security measures.

Other models topping our crime tables include the Nissan Bluebird and Sunny. Unlike the Pajero, the Nissans were built for the UK market, but it appears their longevity has become their Achilles’ heel, with the cars’ antiquated security systems being little match for the modern car criminal.

The BMW X6 also ranks highly among the most stolen models in England and Wales. Until September 2012, the X6 was subject to major security issue, with thieves exploiting a technical flaw to clone keys and steal cars. According to our census, the security problem resulted in 183 thefts per 10,000 cars between October 2011 and September 2012, making it one of the most stolen cars in the country.

Our census also unearthed the high end cars that are stolen to order. Perhaps unsurprisingly, given its security issues, the BMW topped the table, with the X6, M3, M5 and X5 all stolen for export by thieves.

At the opposite end of the scale, the safest cars for theft was the Peugeot 508, the Saab 9-5 and the Skoda Roomster, with all three recording zero thefts between 2011 – 2012. The Shogun Pinin also recorded zero thefts, proof that immobilisers and modern security systems work as the car is almost identical to the Pajero. However, unlike its grey import brethren, the Pinin was officially brought into the UK by Mitsubishi and meets more modern security standards.

However, while modern security is eradicating theft, it’s not having such an impact on criminal damage. Our census shows that vandalism is still a big issue in England and Wales. The Citroen Xsara was the car that suffered the most vandalism in England and Wales, with an offence rate 136 per cent above the national average. The Ford Galaxy, Chrysler Voyager, Renault Scenic and Toyota Previa also suffered badly. Explaining why these particular vehicles are targeted by vandals is difficult, but one theory claims that the majority of families choose the convenience of parking in towns and cities, compared to the arduous nature of using public transport. Large MPVs can also be difficult vehicles to park – especially if fitted with a roof box/rack – which means many are left in vulnerable street parking zones due to the fact they’re too large to be fitted into a secure multi-story car park. It’s also worth noting that minor collisions and clipped wing mirrors can also be recorded as criminal damage, which again could explain why large and wide MPVs are so often the victim.

It’s also worth noting that, while our study has provided detail analysis of more than 500,000 car crime records, our census doesn’t include theft of car keys in the course of a house burglary. That’s because house crimes are recorded separate, regardless of what the motive may be. 

See also: Top 10 Cars Stolen to order / Top 10 Most Stolen Cars

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   on 20 August 2013

It's good to see that the BMW X6 is stolen for export as the fewer of these horribly ugly cars on UK roads the better....

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