The number of vehicles stolen in England and Wales has shot up by 30 per cent in just three years, with experts blaming keyless entry systems for the rise.
A freedom of information request showed that 65,783 vehicles were reported stolen in 2013 to 40 police forces in England and Wales, but by 2016 this had risen to 85,688.
London had the most vehicles stolen, with 26,496 taken in 2016 – equating to nearly a third of the thefts (31 per cent). Similar to the national trend, this represented a 29 per cent increase on 2013, when 20,565 were stolen.
The research by the RAC also showed that outside London the worst-hit region was the West Midlands with 5,930 thefts – a 43 per cent increase on 2013 (4,161). This was closely followed by West Yorkshire with 5,597, a 57 per cent rise from 2013.
Fourth spot was claimed by Greater Manchester, which saw 4,999 stolen vehicles in 2016 and fifth was Essex with 3,623. Both saw a 29 per cent increase on 2013.
AA president Edmund King said: “Most cars are stolen to order and find their way heading overseas to fund other criminal activity. Unfortunately, keys are often the weakest link in the car crime chain.
“Traditional methods of car theft, such as taking the keys during a house burglary, remain common, but thieves are also trying their hand at hi-tech methods of stealing cars.
“Modern keyless ‘entry and go’ systems that remove the need to use a mechanical key are designed for drivers’ convenience but have ironically created new opportunities for car thieves.
“If your car has a ‘keyless’ system, make sure you keep the keys far enough away from the car when you’re at home.”
RAC Insurance director Mark Godfrey said: “We fear thieves are now becoming more and more well equipped with technology capable of defeating car manufacturers’ anti-theft systems.
“This is bad news for motorists, as it has the effect of causing insurance premiums to rise at a time when they are already being pushed up by a variety of factors, not least the recent change to the discount rate for life-changing personal injury compensation claims and the rises in insurance premium tax.”
By Will Rimell