Vehicle thefts increase by 9%

By Neil Lancefield, Press Association Transport Correspondent

Vehicle thefts increased by 9% last year in England and Wales, according to data.

Some 113,037 offences involving theft or unauthorised taking of a vehicle were recorded by police in 2018, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.

This drove an overall 2% rise in total vehicle offences, which reached 463,497 over the 12-month period.

Edmund King (AA/PA)

The figures come amid growing concern about thefts of keyless entry cars, which normally involves offenders targeting a car parked outside someone’s home.

Devices are used to relay a signal from the key to the car, tricking the system into allowing thieves access to the vehicle.

AA president Edmund King said: “A 9% increase in vehicle thefts is very worrying.

“One area of concern is the increase of cars with keyless entry being stolen.

“When it comes to stealing cars, thieves have changed their tactics from ‘smash and grab’ to ‘bounce and roll’, as they bounce the radio signals off the key to unlock the car and roll away with it.

“Having access to your keys is the easiest way for a thief to steal your car, so drivers need to ensure they protect them properly.”

RAC spokesman Pete Williams said: “These latest figures are a genuine cause for alarm with a sharp increase in the number of vehicles stolen.

“There is increasing evidence that organised gangs are targeting high-end vehicles so we would urge owners to take every precaution when parking their cars.

“We have seen a rise in the sale of steering wheel locks recently and these can act as both a visual and physical deterrent to would-be criminals.”

There were also 811,000 offences of criminal damage to a vehicle last year, a 14% increase.

Mr King said: “We believe a large proportion of these could be down to vehicles in car parks being bumped or scraped by others and then fleeing the scene.”