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Number plate theft falls, reports RAC

The organisation said that the majority of police forces saw a fall in thefts over that period, although a small number of forces bucked that trend and reported significant rises.

It added that the fall in the instances of number plates being stolen is probably symptomatic of a wider issue that police forces are no doubt well aware of.

In total, 26 of the 34 police forces that responded to a Freedom of Information request by the RAC recorded a fall in number plate thefts between 2010 and 2014, although results differ wildly between areas. Warwickshire Police is leading the way with an 80% reduction in thefts, from 404 reported in 2010 to just 82 in 2014. Cheshire Police (55% reduction) and Surrey Police (50%) recorded the second and third biggest reductions respectively.

However, West Midlands Police saw a 38% rise in thefts, recording 4,543 instances in 2014 – which is 70% more occurrences than the next busiest force. Derbyshire Police meanwhile recorded a 34% increase (470 instances, up from 351), and North Yorkshire Police saw an 18% increase (104 instances, up from 88).

The RAC added that number plates are stolen for a variety of reasons, and their theft can be an indicator of other criminal activities.

The RAC also asked police forces for details on car identity cloning but data was much less widely available: of the 34 forces, only six held figures.

RAC head of external affairs Pete Williams said: “When it comes to number plate theft, this data paints a largely positive picture with some big reductions in crimes recorded across many police forces. The DVLA took action on the issue in 2003, requiring identity confirmation and proof of entitlement from the motorist getting plates made and it appears this has borne fruit.

“Number plate theft is unlikely to happen in isolation, and goes hand-in-hand with other types of crime such as motor vehicle theft and burglary.

“The RAC is concerned that much less information appears to be being collected by forces on car identity cloning – where one vehicle’s identity, including number plate details, are transposed to another, likely stolen vehicle. There is very little an innocent motorist can do to stop this activity. We would like to see a commitment from forces to rigorously collect data on car cloning, so that we can all understand the scale of the problem.”

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Natalie Middleton

Natalie has worked as a fleet journalist for nearly 20 years, previously as assistant editor on the former Company Car magazine before joining Fleet World in 2006. Prior to this, she worked on a range of B2B titles, including Insurance Age and Insurance Day.