The Crime Prevention Website


There are three categories of property commonly stolen from vehicles:

Category 1 property

This is property that is stolen from within the vehicle that should not have been left there and includes: Mobile phones; Sat-Navs; Laptops; Handbags; Wallets (with their contents of course); Coin used for parking meters; Shopping; Vehicle documents, such as Registration Documents and Test Certificates (MOTs) and anything else of value left on view.

Category 2 property

This is property that is stolen from within the vehicle that needs to be there and includes: Sound Systems (the installed parts, not the removable facia if it has one); Tax Discs; Blue Badges and Fuel

Category 3 property

This is property that is stolen off the vehicle and includes:  Wheels; Spare Wheels (especially those carried in insecure cradles beneath the car); Top Boxes; Registration (Number) Plates and Catalytic Converters (particularly from vehicles with high ground clearance, such as 4X4s).

How do we reduce theft? 

Theft of property from vehicles can only occur if: 

  • There is a motivated thief present at the scene
  • There is property, as described above, either in or on the vehicle
  • There is an opportunity to commit the theft 

We can therefore reduce our chances of becoming a victim if we minimise the availability of property worth stealing or do something to make it less attractive to the thief or more difficult to take and do something about reducing the opportunity to commit the theft. 

So first let’s see what we can do about the various types of property:

Category 1 property in unattended vehicles

Hundreds of thousands of vehicle crimes could be prevented if we simply stopped leaving Category 1 property in our unattended vehicles and here are a few points for you to consider:

  • If you have to keep coin in your car for the parking meters, keep it in a closed ashtray (if you have one) or in some other out-of-sight compartment (most cars have a little drawer somewhere).  If it is on view a desperate thief will smash a side window (worth £180) to steal £5.50 in change 
  • It goes without saying that things like handbags, leather jackets, wallets, laptops, and shopping should never be left on view in the vehicle.  Some of this can be locked in the boot
  • A portable Sat-Nav should be carried on the person or left in a locked boot, together with its cradle or mat when leaving the car.  Any suction cup marks on the windscreen should be wiped away as their presence will indicate to the thief that you may have a device, such as a sat-nav, hidden in the glove compartment.  You may not have, but this won’t stop the thief from smashing a side window to take a look – another £180.  You can purchase Sat-Nav mats, which have weighted bases to stop the whole thing sliding around, with a smooth top on which you can stick the Sat-Nav.  This means that you won't be leaving suction cup marks on the windscreen.  The same mat can be used with a cradle to hold your mobile phone too.
  • Registration documents and test certificates should be kept at home
  • Keep the inside of the vehicle tidy as an untidy vehicle containing opened mail, plastic bags etc may attract the curiosity of a thief (£180) 
  • If there is nothing in the glove compartment leave it open to view
  • Remove the facia of your sound system if it has one and use the PIN security facility

Category 1 property in occupied vehicles   

Drivers and passengers do have property stolen from them through snatch thefts and sometimes robbery when they are sitting in the vehicle and so:

  • When you are in the vehicle try to store category 1 property in the boot, including the handbag.  If this is just too much to bear then at least place the handbag into the well in front of the passenger seat so that it is less in view.  If possible place it under a seat or in the glove compartment or beneath the legs of a passenger.  Never leave it on the passenger seats.

Category 2 property

Solutions are available to reduce these thefts or at least reduce the pay-off for the thief

  • Sound systems and other in-car entertainment systems should be marked using a proprietary marking and registration system as described in Property Identification – marking, tagging and tracking, Standards for property marking products and services .  Also keep a record of the make, model and serial numbers and other distinguishing marks.  Use the warning labels supplied with the marking kit to warn thieves that the removable property in your car is marked and traceable.  You can also use the same marking kit to mark other items of property you use in the car, such as the sat-nav and mobile phone
  • Blue Badges should be kept in secure display holders.  These holders can be rested above the dashboard to display the badge and clock and are attached to the steering wheel via a lockable steel cable. It is interesting to note that the discontinuation of Tax Discs led to a noticeable reduction in theft from vehicles. 
  • If you have a non-locking petrol cap I would be amazed!  Modern cars have petrol caps that lock automatically when you lock the car.  If yours doesn’t lock when it should you’ll need to have the mechanism repaired.     

Category 3 property

Solutions are available to reduce these thefts or at least reduce the pay-off for the thief

  • Wheels can be protected by using locking wheel nuts.  Most modern cars are supplied with them, but if not a decent set can be purchased for around £40 to £50 (2017 prices)
  • Spare wheels (proper ones, not those temporary 50mph ones) that are carried outside of the car in a cradle can and do get stolen.  I used to drive Vauxhall Zafiras and I lost a wheel in broad daylight whist the car was parked near a tube station.  Locks are available to secure cradle carried wheels, but they have to be fitted by a competent person.  Ask your local garage or car dealer about having one fitted.  Mine cost me around £50 in 2011
  • Registration (Number) plates.  In 2004 it was estimated that at least 33,000 number plates were stolen from vehicles in UK.  If they are stolen from your vehicle report the theft to the police immediately , because they will have been stolen to clone your vehicle.  Stolen number plates are used to sell stolen cars, disguise cars used in a criminal activity, such as a robbery or theft of fuel from a service station and evade fines for speeding and other offences and congestion charges.  Failure to report the matter to the police may lead to you receiving countless traffic offence penalties and charges and it will be down to you to prove yourself innocent of the charges brought against you! In 2003 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 .  Plates that have been successfully tested to this criteria by Sold Secure can be found on the Sold Secure website .  If you are about to purchase a new vehicle ask the dealer to fit Sold Secure approved theft resistant number plates. If you don't want to run to the expense of new plates you could fix the ones you have with security screws or even use a little superglue on the underside of the screw head
  • Top boxes.  The majority of top boxes have the rack fittings inside the box and are therefore protected by the box’s key locking mechanism.  The point here is to always keep the top box locked
  • Catalytic converters contain platinum, rhodium and palladium, which are elements of high cost and in high demand.  If your petrol engine vehicle has a high ground clearance consider having the converter chemically engraved with a proprietary marking and registration system as described in Property identification - marking, tagging and tracking, Standards for property marking products and services

Now let’s see what we can do to reduce the opportunity to steal things

  • Always close the windows and sunroof and lock the doors and set the immobiliser and alarm before leaving the vehicle, even for a minute, such as when paying for petrol at a service station
  • If your vehicle does not have an alarm then have one fitted.  Always insist on a Thatcham approved alarm system (See Motor vehicles, Vehicle alarms and immobilisers )
  • Lock the doors and boot before you drive away to reduce the chances of snatch theft and robbery when stopped (especially at traffic lights) or in slow moving traffic. See this news item. Modern vehicles have auto-locking doors and you can sometimes hear the locks 'click' in place when you get to 3 - 5mph.
  • Although you will be breaking the law if you are using a mobile phone in your hand whilst driving a motor vehicle, you and your passengers who might be using them should be particularly aware of snatch theft and robbery when in crawling traffic or stopped at traffic lights
  • Take extra care if you are driving a convertible vehicle with the roof down.  Consider raising the windows when stationary or in slow traffic and keep the doors and boot locked
  • When parking at home use the garage if you have one or park on a well lit driveway or hard standing, rather than in the street.  If you live in a block of flats you will have to make use of the parking facilities provided and if these are not secure enough you and your neighbours will need to approach the landlord or managing agent to ask for improvements.
  • When parking away from home try to park in a place that is well lit and overlooked.  When using a public car park try to use one that is supervised or a Park Mark® Safer Parking Facility.  These have been vetted by the police and have measures in place to create a safer environment for you and your vehicle.  Plan ahead and follow this link to search for a Park Mark® Safer Parking Facility
  • If you are buying a new vehicle see if its specification includes or provides an option of having laminated glass used in place of toughened glass in the side and rear windows.  Toughened glass is easily and silently broken with a sharp object, such as a centre punch, and allows the thief to steal something from within the car very easily.  Laminated glass, which is constructed from at least two sheets of glass with a tough interlayer of polyvinyl butyral (PVB) or ethylene and vinyl acetate copolymer (EVA) will also break quietly, but will hold together much longer and greatly increase the effort to break through.  The car dealer might refer to the laminated glass as EPG (Enhanced Protection Glazing) as it sounds more impressive! The thief is probably not going to know that the glass is laminated until he breaks it, so some visual warning on the glass itself would be helpful.  The use of laminated glass also has other benefits, including reduced noise and added protection for the occupants during an accident.  The police have been calling for laminated glass in cars for many, many years yet it is only now that it has become available
  • Security film can be added to the inner face of existing toughened glass windows.  However, car window glass is not held in the framing in the same manner as glass is held in a building window, so I am not convinced if the security improvement will be worth the expense.  I also have some reservations about the scratching and scuffing of the film, which is bound to occur and will affect the ability to see through it

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 May 2017, July 2017