Reported car theft numbers soar

Published 10 July 2020

More than 150,000 vehicles were stolen in Britain from 2018 to 2019, 10,000 more than the year before and a 56 per cent increase compared to four years earlier, according to RAC data.

All but three of the police forces that responded to a Freedom of Information request recorded an increase in the numbers of vehicles stolen from 2014-15 and 2018-19, with some stark differences across the country.

Six forces recorded more than double the number of vehicles stolen between 2014-15 and 2018-19, with the biggest percentage jumps in Suffolk (up 172 percent from 347 to 945 thefts), Surrey (up 133 per cent from 661 to 1543 thefts) and the West Midlands (121 per cent from 4695 to 10,372).

The largest increases, in terms of vehicle numbers, were in the Kent Police (up 12,550 to 40,726 thefts in 2018-19, a 45 percent increase), Metropolitan Police (up 9,635 to 30,773 thefts, a 46 per cent increase) and West Midlands.

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Only Lincolnshire, the City of London and Police Scotland recorded a reduction in thefts over this period. However, all were relatively small numbers, with reductions of 28, 29 and 473 thefts respectively.

Most police forces (32) also recorded a rise in vehicle thefts year-on-year, between 2017-18 and 2018-19. Kent again saw the largest rise as well as the largest number of overall vehicles stolen in 2018-19, followed by Essex and the West Midlands.

RAC Insurance spokesperson Simon Williams said: "Vehicle thefts are on the rise almost everywhere, and in some parts of the country numbers are rocketing. It’s also not the case that the rises in crime are confined to a few larger urban areas, with many police forces covering more rural areas also seeing big increases."

How to protect your car:

  • Use a visual deterrent Time is of the essence to thieves and most will shun vehicles that increase the odds of being caught. That’s why proven devices like the Disklok are useful because they present a physical barrier that requires significant time and effort to remove.  

  • Fit an alarm, immobiliser or tracker - Alarms and immobilisers are not standard on every car in the UK. That’s why it’s important to invest in a good system that will draw attention to anyone who tries break into your car and stop them from driving away. For upmost peace of mind, fit a nano tracking device that will allow the police to pinpoint the car's location in the event of it being stolen.

  • Use a Faraday bag to prevent keyless theft – Criminals are developing increasingly high tech ways to steal cars. One method is to boost the keyless signal (from within your home) with a relay box. Once boosted, the car will unlock and (in some cases) allow the thief to drive away. However, from as little as £10, you can get a Faraday bag that blocks electromagnetic fields and stops the radio frequency being amplified.

  • Park smart - Not everyone has the luxury of a driveway or large, secure garage to store their car in. However, if you do park on the street, be sure to use well-lit areas that are clearly visible to passing traffic and pedestrians. Many city centre streets use CCTV and it's wise to note their locations and (if convenient) park within their field of vision. When using public car parks, be sure to use the bays near the entrance/exit as these will be better lit and covered by security cameras. 

  • Never leave anything valuable on display – Loose change, cardboard boxes, plastic bags, electronic charging leads – they’re all adverts for thieves. Even a sucker mark of a sat nav holder on a grubby windscreen is a sign that there might be an expensive bit of tech hidden in your car’s glovebox. Always be mindful of what's on display in your car and never give a thief an open invitation for a smash and grab. 

Comments

conman    on 11 July 2020

Is this massive rise in car thefts anything to do with Keyless entry. Why people buy these cars and then are surprised that they get stolen baffles me. You pay £40,000 for a car then have to buy a £10 bag to put your keys in or buy a steering wheel lock the kind of we used to buy in the 60's when cars didn't have all these 'sophisticated security systems'. Stupidity gone mad.

BRY328    on 13 July 2020

You ask the question as limited info and facts in the story and then decide to make your own mind up of why the increase. Find out yourself, apply some facts to add weight to your moan.

scraggy    on 13 July 2020

Car makers should be forced to secure keyless entry sytems so they can not be relayed.

It is the most stupid of ways to lock and secure a vehicle. It is not very secure and is easy to circumvent. Go back to using a key and effective ways os securing your car, ie seeing locks and wheel clamps. Cheaper than losing your pride and joy.

Graham

VINCENT MILLARD    on 31 July 2020

Car makers should be forced to secure keyless entry sytems so they can not be relayed. It is the most stupid of ways to lock and secure a vehicle. It is not very secure and is easy to circumvent. Go back to using a key and effective ways os securing your car, ie seeing locks and wheel clamps. Cheaper than losing your pride and joy. Graham

My Wife has a well known make of car and the Keyless only works within 2Ft of the car, so anyone wanting to clone the key would have to be within 2 ft of it and it changes the code every time. 2020 Model.

aethelwulf    on 13 July 2020

Well, car theft dropped considerably when cars were made to have immobilizers fitted. Before that car security was a joke. Manufacturers only make a move when forced to by law so come police, get the information to the government as to why they think these thefts have risen so that a cure can be made. Not with those metal objects bolted round your wheel/gear-knobs etc. What a stone age technology is that? We have cars that will keep to a lane , park themselves, link to smartphones but get stolen effortlessly? Come on somebody.

captpete    on 14 July 2020

I quiet agree and where do the cars go .?
Are they recovered or lost to Europe forever ?
and what does Dr Ken German say about it.

Edited by captpete on 14/07/2020 at 08:39

Steve Crane    on 28 July 2020

Interesting that Kent is nearest to the ferry ports and has the highest figures.

Whereas Scotland is decreasing.

VINCENT MILLARD    on 31 July 2020

Interesting that Kent is nearest to the ferry ports and has the highest figures.

Whereas Scotland is decreasing.

It's the part of Kent nearest to the Thames crossing that has the highest reported theft rate and a lot of that is Agricultural. You wouldn't get far trying to get a Tractor through Dover, but it would fit in a Container out of Tilbury.

And so would all the stripped down car parts headed for Africa, South and Central America and even N America etc.

VINCENT MILLARD    on 31 July 2020

I quiet agree and where do the cars go .? Are they recovered or lost to Europe forever ? and what does Dr Ken German say about it.

Most Stolen cars are stipped down and shipped outside Europe for spares!

~cw    on 14 July 2020

Some care are stolen to order for parts or delivery, usually the performance vehicles, SUVs or 4x4s. Some are used by criminals to commit further crime (in the Midlands the Audi Q and SQs are preferred for their capacity and speed, and Fiesta STs are the drug dealer's daily driver). I had a car stolen which was used for a year as a runabout, it was only recovered due to a slip-up by the criminals.

Unfortunately OEM car alarms and electronics haven't really advanced much in the last 15 years. Some manufacturers are using 8/10 year old components for core systems because they're already homologated and don't need several years of design effort and exhaustive code testing.

However that means once they're reverse engineered, many cars in the range are susceptible to identical attacks unless additional protections are put in place, OEM or aftermarket.

Thatcham, being funded by the insurers, has never had a great incentive to enforce more rigorous electronic penetration testing of modern car security systems. I believe when keyless thefts were peaking a few years ago, Thatcham's intrusion tests still involved blunt force impact with a hammer to the side windows.

Design of keyless entry systems is also awful. Until very recently, no consideration of things like 'turn off keyfob transmission if no key movement detected' and only a few cars include the option to disable keyless entry and start. That's why we've ended up with aftermarket products like the expensive "Keyless Protector" - over £150 but which still has design deficiencies (any HJ readers use those?)

There should be multi-factor security built in to cars above a certain value - a keyfob and also other options like keypad or fingerprint reader. Even if not mandatory from the factory, the minor inconvenience of an extra step to start the car is negated by the additional security.

When Tesla introduced a pin-to-disarm system in their cars, people don't bother using it, so keyless thefts continue.

My current car has a Disklok as sturdy visual deterrent, second aftermarket alarm, second aftermarket immobiliser and a few other secret tricks. It's sad I had to spend so much extra, but Ford were never going to :-)

Lee Power    on 26 July 2020

Peugeot / Citroen had keypad immobilisers in the past, most owners where just to laxy to even change the factory default pin code & the motoring press always moaned the system wasn't user friendly - transponder keys replaced the keypad.

I remember reading a group road test when the Citroen C4 first launched & the C4 got slated as you needed the ignition key to remove the fuel cap - great idea for security as it stops lazy people leaving the key in the car during refueling.

Its pointless for manufacturers to try & upgrade security when EU anti completion laws mean the manufacturer isn't allowed to lock down access in via the EOBD port - any tom, dick or Harry can plug there electronic theft device in to bypass the security systems.

Ford made big announcements about there upgraded keyless fobs with movement technology to prevent relay theft - but there still susceptible to theft via EOBD.

If you want your vehicle to resist theft unfortunately you cannot rely on the the manufacturers factory fit secirity systems as there hands are currently tied by EU regulations.

As for the Disklok - thieves have now found an easy / simple way to defeat these, its not common knowledge yet but word is spreading on how to defeat them.

Steve Crane    on 28 July 2020

I can't understand why the insurance companies don't pressure the car manufacturers by putting up the premiums until they sort the problem out.
The manufacturers won't do anything until it hits their sales.

VINCENT MILLARD    on 31 July 2020

I can't understand why the insurance companies don't pressure the car manufacturers by putting up the premiums until they sort the problem out. The manufacturers won't do anything until it hits their sales.

The Manufacturers don't pay the Insurance premiums, We Do. So if the Insurers put up the Price we get the hit!

As I have said, My Wife has a well known non European Make of car and it's a 2020 model. The fob has to be within 2 Feet of the door you want to open. So if you keep the Fob 3Ft from any window or door of your House, Bungalow or Flat, it can't be cloned, also to stop it being cloned whilst in your pocket, it changes the code and has to have the correct Handshake from the Car. Even so we have a Metal box both indoors and for the key when outside.

You only need a Toffee tin or Ally Glasses Case. It's called a "Faraday Cage" and you must do the same for your Chip and Pin Cards.

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