Car thefts have soar by almost 50 per cent in the last five years, with a car being stolen every five minutes, according to new figures.
Data from police forces around the UK reveals there has been a 45 per cent rise in reported thefts since 2014, before which there had been a six-year decline in crimes.
In 2017/18 alone, 112,174 vehicles were stolen – equivalent to 307 each day.
The figures were obtained from forces across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland by insurer Direct Line.
It then used its own claims data to identify the country’s car theft hot spots.
According to Direct Line’s claims information, English regions are driving the increase. The West Midlands has seen the number of stolen vehicles triple in the last five years, making it the fastest-growing region for car crime, and the North-West and North East and Yorkshire also saw rates more than double from 2014 to 2018.
However, London remains the UK’s worst overall spot for thefts, with around 33 claims for every 10,000 registered on the road – a 61 per cent rise on 2013/14.
Conversely, in Scotland claims for car theft have fallen 23 per cent over the same period, while in Northern Ireland they have remained static.
Change in volume of car theft claims, 2014 to 2018
Region Change Claims per 10,000
West Midlands +214% 16 North West +110% 17 North East & Yorkshire +104% 5 Greater London +61% 33 East Midlands +60% 8 East of England +48% 7 South West +43% 4 South East +29% 4 Wales +29% 4 Northern Ireland 0% 1 Scotland -23% 10
The Direct Line figures come after the Association of British Insurers revealed its members had settled 16,000 claims for car theft-related crimes between January and March this year.
It said that the rise of keyless entry systems and their vulnerability to relay attacks was at least partly behind payouts reaching a seven-year high.
According to Direct Line’s data, five London postcodes appear in the top ten for the highest number of vehicle theft claims over the past five years: E4 (Chingford), E6 (East Ham), E17 (Walthamstow), E11 (Leytonstone and Wanstead) and IG1 (Ilford).
Birmingham has four postcodes in the top ten (B31, B90, B62 and B13), while Manchester has one – the M20 area – although it experienced the highest number of car theft claims in the UK over the five-year period.
Steve Barrett, head of car insurance at Direct Line, commented: “With an alarming increase in the number of cars stolen over the last five years it is more important than ever to do all we can to prevent cars from being stolen.
“Using a combination of measures such as parking in a well-lit area or through security features such as steering wheel locks, or by ensuring that the car alarm system is fully activated by double locking the vehicle could help make it as difficult as possible for a thief and may help buy time for the alarm to be raised in case a theft is in progress.”
Direct Line’s tips to prevent car theft
Keep the vehicle locked: Modern cars’ smoother locking mechanisms can make it difficult to hear if the car locks. Double-check that it is locked before leaving your vehicle, even if you are just ducking away for a few minutes.
Invest in the right technology: Old-fashioned technology such as steering wheel, pedal and gear locks are inexpensive, easy to install and off-putting to criminals, while tracking devices or CCTV systems fitted near your car can help track down your vehicle and the perpetrator should it be taken.
Keep your keys safe: The easiest way for a criminal to steal a car is by taking the keys, so always ensure you store your keys out of sight of doors or windows.
Block signals: Some manufacturers make it possible to switch your key off. If this is not possible for your car, invest in a ‘Faraday Pouch’ which blocks the signal and stops relay attacks.
Park smart: If you don’t have the luxury of a garage or off-street parking, try to park in a well-lit, populated area whenever possible.