A Freedom of Information request to 40 police forces in England and Wales found that 85,688 vehicles were stolen in 2016 – up from 65,783 in 2013.
London was the area where most vehicles were stolen – with a total of 26,496 thefts in 2016, accounting for a third of all reported thefts. This was up 29% from 2013 figures when 20,565 vehicles were stolen.
The west Midlands also reported a high number of vehicle thefts and one of the largest growths in the past three years – with thefts increasing from 4,161 to 5,930.
The highest increase was seen in west Yorkshire, where thefts rose by 57% from 3,561 to 5,597.
RAC Insurance director Mark Godfrey said, ‘Technology advances in immobilisers, keys and car alarms had caused the number of vehicle thefts to decrease significantly from more than 300,000 in 2002 but sadly they have now increased after bottoming out in 2013 and 2014.
‘We fear thieves are now becoming more and more well equipped with technology capable of defeating car manufacturers’ anti-theft systems.
‘This is bad news for motorists as it has the effect of causing insurance premiums to rise at a time when they are already being pushed up by a variety of factors, not least the recent change to the discount rate for life-changing personal injury compensation claims and the rises in insurance premium tax.’
Drivers can take certain steps to reduce the likelihood of their vehicle being stolen, for example parking in well-lit areas, not leaving anything valuable on view inside and never leaving the keys in the ignition when they’re not in the car.
‘In addition, anti-theft devices such as steering wheel locks which were popular in the 1980s and early 1990s are starting to make a comeback as they are still a very effective visible deterrent. This is quite ironic as they were replaced a number of years ago by alarms and immobilisers, which until now, offered better theft prevention.
‘Telematics – or black box – technology is another potentially useful weapon in the fight against car theft. We have seen several instances where we have been able to track stolen vehicles using RAC Telematics devices and have even helped the police recover vehicles successfully.’