Drivers warned of massive spike in vehicle theft and how to prevent it

Car crime: Former burglar advises drivers to turn wheels into kerb

Last year, a total of 115,822 vehicles were stolen in the UK alone, with thefts increasing 23.9 percent between 2021 and 2022. London and the West Midlands experienced the highest number of vehicle thefts, with 32,766 and 12,429 incidents respectively in 2022.

Regions such as Hampshire, Devon and Cornwall, Kent, Humberside, the West Midlands, Northumbria and Staffordshire all saw thefts increase by over 50 percent between 2020 and 2022.

With average used car values rising from £12,800 in 2019 to £17,654 in February of this year, many criminals will look to steak cars to sell for massive profits.

While they can be sold as a whole vehicle, sometimes thieves will strip the car and sell the parts in the UK and even ship them abroad.

The survey, conducted by AX Track, estimated that the global automotive aftermarket for replacement parts and accessories is around $390billion (£308billion).

Neil Thomas, Director of Investigative Services at AX Track, said: “The technology-driven tactics of today’s sophisticated criminals are a far cry from the opportunist teenagers of the past who would steal cars for fun.

“Our study shows a huge rebound since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, but in many cases we are seeing thefts surge ahead of the pre-pandemic figures from 2019. 

“It’s a worrying trend, but not entirely unexpected given the increasingly sophisticated techniques that criminals are deploying. 

“Equipment costing thousands of pounds can be purchased online, enabling criminals and their associates to steal cars by either cloning or mimicking the original key. 

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“Keyless theft can take several forms and it’s prevalent enough that criminals are stealing cars to order, identifying the right car while organising false numberplates before the theft even takes place.”

Some regions have performed better than others, however, with North Wales, Suffolk and Sussex seeing a drop in vehicle thefts between 2020 and 2022.

This improved on already lower figures resulting in a lull of criminal activity as a result of the coronavirus pandemic and the various lockdowns.

Mr Thomas added: “The technology at their fingertips helps criminals to steal cars without having to force entry. 

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“And as used car values rise, an undamaged and valuable car is a significant incentive for criminals who often don’t get caught. 

“We’ve even heard from some people in car crime hotspots that they leave their car open in the hope it might be recovered and returned undamaged.”

Drivers can prevent their cars from being stolen in a number of ways, including parking the car in a locked garage or on a driveway.

When parking in the street, drivers may not be aware that their car is being taken, and there won’t be as many deterrents as if the car would be parked on the driveway.

This could be in the form of CCTV cameras, motion sensor lighting and even installing additional locks in the car.

Those with keyless car entry can also prevent them from being targeted with a Faraday pouch.

Criminals will use a relay device to intercept the signal between the key and the car, giving them access to open the vehicle with the device.

A Faraday pouch blocks any of the signals from being intercepted, with drivers also advised to leave their keys away from any windows or doors.

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