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According to statistics obtained from The Crime Survey for England and Wales it’s pretty good news, because, until very recently, vehicle crime has been following a downward trend since 1995. The most recent survey of 2015/16 estimates there were 796,000 vehicle related thefts, a fall of aboput 9% on the previous year. Of these, around 70% were thefts from the vehicle, 10% were thefts of the vehicle and 20% were attempted thefts of or from or criminal damage to the vehicle. This compares very favourably to the 1,189,000 vehicle-related thefts estimated during 2010/11.
Police data for thefts of a vehicle show a similar decline over the past decade, but the decline has slowed in recent years with an increase in the last year (table below)
- 2006/07 182,464
- 2007/08 159,704
- 2008/09 137,508
- 2009/10 109,684
- 2010/11 99,208
- 2011/12 85,803
- 2012/13 74,168
- 2013/14 70,053
- 2014/15 70,360
- 2015/16 76,356
So what does this mean to you and me?
The statistics suggest that about 4 per cent of vehicle-owning households experienced one or more vehicle-related thefts in the 12-month period prior to interview, which is about twice the chance of having a burglary. The survey also shows us that (not unsurprisingly) households owning more than one vehicle are at greater risk of vehicle-related theft.
Overall, the most striking thing about vehicle crime however is that in 1995 (22 years ago) the estimated figure for vehicle-related theft was about 4,300,000, which means that vehicle crime levels are about five-and-a-half times lower today!
The police statistics in the table above showing that the level of theft of a vehicle has now bottomed out suggests that the vehicle manufacturers have done about as much as they can in terms of design and now it’s down to us to buy the most secure vehicles and do something about our own discipline when it comes to locking them up and not leaving things of value inside.
What has caused this downward trend?
I’m no expert when it comes to vehicle crime, but I think it’s pretty obvious that improving security on new vehicles since the mid 1990s has been the major contributor.
This was largely driven by the Home Office’s excellent 1992 initiative, the ‘Car Theft Index’. For the first time, this document listed the best and worst car models for security as a proportion of the total number of those models on the road. I think this was the government’s finest hour for preventing crime and I’m sure the document embarrassed the hell out of car manufacturers, because for the first time there was a reliable source of information that told car buyers interested in security which cars not to buy. The boardrooms must have been buzzing! This then led to the manufacturers installing better locks, immobilisers, alarms, locking wheel nuts as more or less standard.
If you’d like to know more take a look the Car Theft Index report – an interesting read.
The 'arms race'
As has been said elsewhere on this website we should always expect the unexpected!
Since October 1998 there's been a requirement for all new vehicles sold in the UK to be fitted with passively setting electronic immobilisers, making it very difficult to steal a car without the car key. This hugely important security improvement, along with the introduction of the Car Theft Index, saw theft of motor vehicles fall from a peak of about 700,000 in the mid 1990s to today's figure of just over 76,000; a tenfold decrease.
However, this fantastic reduction has seen an increase in the proportion of burglaries where the car keys have been stolen. Thatcham estimate that about 70% of vehicles are now stolen using the car keys and of these 20% of the keys were stolen in the course of a burglary. That leaves 80% of them being stolen by some other form of key theft, such as from the handbag or off the bar or out of the back pocket etc. Another interesting finding, this time from Tracker, tells us that the average value of a stolen vehicle recovered by them in 2016 was £16,000. This is way above the average value of a stolen car in the 1990s and just shows us how car thieving has switched from mainly 'joy-riding' by teenagers to a highly organised criminal activity targeting up-market vehicles. This is further evidenced by the fact that fewer than 50% of stolen vehicles are ever recovered, because they are being stolen to sell on to unsuspecting customers both in the UK and abroad
To counteract the cloning of vehicles, whereby the identity of one car was given to another, the government introduced The Register of number plate suppliers to make it more difficult for thieves to obtain false number plates. Whilst this has made it much more difficult for villains to have false plates made, it has led to an increase in the theft of plates. To counteract this problem the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Authority introduced criteria for the testing of theft resistant number plates. These plates are designed to resist an attack for up to 3 minutes and break up into small pieces so that the plates become unusable. Unfortunately the use of these plates is voluntary.
...and so the arms race continues, but at the moment we are winning; so long as you follow the advice given in the following pages.
Park Smart tool for safer parking
If you would like to know the level of car crime in a particular street or area click on this link to Co-op Insurance's Park Smart tool
Updated July 2017