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Vehicle thefts soar by 21% in three years

Vehicle theft in England and Wales continues to rise dramatically; up 21% in the last three financial years according to new data as thieves turn to more sophisticated methods.

Keyless theft

The FOI suggests vehicle theft has increased 21% over the last three financial years

Although the impact of the Covid-19 lockdown on car crime in 2020 is still unclear, vehicle thefts have gone up by 60% in some police forces across England and Wales between 2016 and 2019, new data from AX suggests.

Its Freedom of Information (FOI) request, carried out among police forces across England and Wales, also revealed that theft increased by 14% between the 2016/17 and 2017/18 financial years alone.

The figures continued to rise by a further 6.1% between 2017/18 and 2018/19, according to the provider of intelligent vehicle protection and management technologies.

Among the 17 police forces that replied to the FOI request, Nottinghamshire and Staffordshire Police saw the largest increases over the three-year period, standing at 59.7% and 53.8%.

At the other end of the scale, some forces have seen a decrease in motor vehicle thefts, including Merseyside Police and Avon and Somerset Constabulary. Humberside Police reported the largest drop, with a remarkable decrease of 36%.

Biggest increases in stolen vehicles
Police Force Total Reported Stolen Vehicles % Change since 16/17
  2018/19 16/17-18/19
Nottinghamshire 1,492 59.7%
Staffordshire 1,183 53.8%
Hertfordshire 1,064 50.0%
West Midlands 7,883 44.6%
Surrey 1,069 44.1%


Biggest decreases in reported stolen vehicles
Police Force Total Reported Stolen Vehicles % Change since 16/17
2018/19 16/17-18/19
Wiltshire 156 -78.7%
Humberside 818 -35.8%
Merseyside 3,456 -26.9%
Avon and Somerset 2,384 -3.5%


Neil Thomas, AX’s director of investigative services and a former detective inspector, commented: “The combination of organised crime getting smarter and ability to make quick returns has drastically increased pressure on police forces to control the theft of motor vehicles.”

Thomas also warned that while the lockdown may temporally reduce some types of car theft, there are still concerns over risks.

He continued: “Car thieves are opportunists and have no respect for property and will remain determined to carry on illegal activity despite the current restrictions on movement across the UK. I have even seen recent reports of vehicles belonging to key workers being stolen.

“During this period of lockdown, it’s even more important that car owners remain vigilant and do what they can to keep their car safe while they’re using them less frequently, if at all.”

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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.