Of all the personal belongings that can be stolen, vehicles are perhaps the most annoying. Along with the violation of having your property in the hands of a stranger, you have the inconvenience of having no vehicle and having to deal with insurance companies. Many of us rely on our car, van or motorcycle every single day to take the kids to school, get to and from work or go to the supermarket, and having that taken away from you feels catastrophic.
We’ve analysed the data provided by the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA), the Office for National Statistics (ONS), and insurance firms to uncover the vehicle theft hotspots and give you some tips for securing your vehicle. Take our advice and you can rest easy knowing that your vehicle will be waiting for you where you left it.
Over the last two decades car theft numbers have plummeted. Great news in the general sense – but small consolation to those who have been victims recently. The Office of National Statistics figures show that in the year 2002/03 there were 306,947 thefts or cases of unauthorised taking of vehicles – that number is 95,958 for 2020/21. The drop over the years is more than likely to do with an increase in technologies – better locking mechanisms and immobilisers, more security cameras and higher quality alarms on the owners' side, and automatic number plate recognition on the police side, for example.
Unfortunately, while there may be less opportunistic theft of vehicles, those criminals who are still intent on stealing your car are moving with the times and using technologies of their own. They have tools that can copy the signal sent by your key fob from a distance and ones that can override the signal altogether. These make it easy for them to simply get in your car and drive away.
So, where are the vehicle crime hotspots? Price comparison website Money Supermarket's analysis of car insurance claims and enquiries indicates that London boroughs, perhaps unsurprisingly, make up a significant proportion of the top ten hotspots, with seven entries.
Romford, Ilford and Barking, North London, Enfield, South-West London, Bromley and the West End – these seven districts all feature in the ten worst places for vehicle theft. Parking your car in London is high risk – in Romford, for example, 16.38 out of every 1000 vehicles are stolen.
Elsewhere, it is still the major population centres that have the highest number of thefts: Birmingham is the highest ranked non-London location on the list, in at number three, with 13.33 thefts in every 1000, Dudley and Manchester both have the dubious honour of making up the remainder of the top ten hot spots.
When you are at home, the safest place is in a garage connected to your property. Only 7% of the total thefts occurred from these spaces, compared to 39% for driveways, non-connected garages and car parks and 27% from roadside parking.
At work, the street is safer than the car park, with 6% of all vehicular thefts in 2019/20 taking place from work car parks, and none from the street. You might think that zero figure is heavily influenced by the impact of COVID lockdowns, but in actual fact, previous years have seen 1% and 2% rates for this location.
Away from the home or workplace, the risks are fairly evenly split, with 7% car park and 8% street. The remaining 7% of thefts were from ‘other places’ – those not part of the previously mentioned locations.
Unfortunately, if you do become the victim of vehicle theft, you have a less than 50% chance of getting your property back – the Office for National Statistics puts the figure at around two in five stolen vehicles getting returned to their owners – ie, 40%.
So, what can you do to protect your property? While the vast majority of vehicle thefts now involve high tech techniques – the replication of remote-control signals being the main one – it is most effective to turn to the 'old faithful' means of securing your car. Technology can't do much to affect those. Wheel clamps, steel steering locks, parking posts: all of these along with other security products provide physical impediments to prevent the car from moving, even if it is unlocked and started up with the remote or a duplicate.
Another key benefit – these items are all great deterrents. Which car would you try to steal – the one parked up with no obvious security above and beyond the manufacturer’s central locking, or the one that has that same security system with the addition of a wheel clamp or steering lock that you have to cut through to get the car moving?