Vehicle thefts in the UK rise by 30%

11 May 2023 | David Young

Vehicle thefts in the UK have risen by nearly a third (29.7%) to 115.5%,822 since 2020 according to new research which reveals the full-year statistics from 2022

Vehicle thefts in the UK rise by 30%

The investigation by AX Track puts a spotlight on the startling rise in vehicle thefts, which also increased by nearly a quarter (23.9%) between 2021 and 2022.

London and the West Midlands experienced the highest number of vehicle thefts in the UK, with 32,766 and 12,429 incidents respectively in 2022 according to the data obtained by AX Track.

Many regions saw a large increases of over 50% between 2020 and 2022, including Hampshire, Devon & Cornwall, Kent, Humberside, West Midlands, Northumbria and Staffordshire.

The Freedom of Information (FOI) requests have uncovered the full extent of the rebound in car theft since the Covid-19 pandemic began in 2020, comprising of data received from 40 out of 45 FOIs issued to UK polices forces.

The study also reviewed data from 2019. In many areas – 20 out of 27 police forces where the data was comparable – the statistics show that incidents in 2022 surpassed levels seen in 2019. Thefts in Cambridgeshire, Cumbria, Devon & Cornwall, West Yorkshire and the West Midlands amongst others all rebounded beyond 2019's vehicle theft figures.

With average used car values rising from £12,800 in 2019 to £17,654 by February 2023 (an increase of 38%), the ballooning cost of second-hand cars and their components now provides an even more lucrative financial return for criminals. While often sold as complete cars, criminals frequently choose to break them up and sell the parts domestically or internationally. An attractive market for criminals, the global automotive aftermarket for replacement parts and accessories is estimated at $390 billion.

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 it 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. 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, improving on already lower figures resulting from the Covid-19 Pandemic.

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

"While we wouldn't advise leaving your doors open, there are precautions you can take. Number one is to park the car on a driveway or locked garage if you have one. Otherwise, park your car in a well-lit area, keep your car keys safe and make sure the car is fitted with adequate security. We'd also advise drivers to consider additional security measures.

"Here at AX Track, we are trying to make cutting-edge security affordable for all. Our mix of human expertise and innovative technology enables us to achieve a vehicle recovery rate of 99.1%. Cost effective and unintrusive, our unique, covert devices enable us to outfox even the most sophisticated criminals."

AX Track has developed a comprehensive portfolio of technology-driven solutions supported by a team experienced in the recovery of stolen vehicles across the UK, Europe and even in Africa.