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Vehicle Theft Up 8%

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Vehicle Theft Up 8%

According to the ONS’s latest Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW) data, published on Thursday 25 January 2024, instances of “theft or unauthorised taking of a motor vehicle” increased from 122,423 in the year October 2021 to September 2022, to 132,489 in the year October 2022 to September 2023. This represents an 8% year-on-year increase and a 17% increase on the pre-pandemic year to March 2020.

Catherine Grant, Lead Analyst at the ONS, identified the rise in car thefts as one of the standout trends, saying:

We’re seeing a mixed picture of crime across England and Wales, with some offences on the decline and some on the rise. The crime survey is showing a decline in fraud compared with the previous year.

However, police recorded crime is showing notable increases in some theft offences, including shoplifting. There has also been an increase in the theft of motor vehicles, which is shown in both survey and police recorded crime data.”

CMA’s Technical Director Philip Swift said:

“It gives me no pleasure to say it, but the only unexpected thing about these figures is that the increase is not higher. We have waved the white flag on vehicle theft and can only hope that these awful new government figures prompt some urgently needed action.

We enjoyed historically low levels of vehicle thefts in England and Wales for a while – from a high of around 400,000 a year in the 1990s (during the so-called joyriding epidemic) down to only 70,000 in 2013/14. Car manufacturers did an amazing job improving security, largely designing out opportunist thefts. Then, theft numbers began creeping back up, as organised criminals took advantage of high vehicle values and a seeming inattention to the crime. Today, post-pandemic, the picture is getting substantially worse year-on-year.

In this context, our recent findings regarding the Vehicle Theft Taskforce (VTT) – obtained via a Freedom of Information (FoI) request – are even more damning.

By 2019, car theft numbers were well over 100,000 a year again. Industry and consumer concern was mounting, so the Home Office established the VTT. It was attended by representatives from the Home Office and the Department for Transport, motor and insurance industry groups, and someone from the Office of the West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner, which claimed to be ‘spearheading’ the initiative. A lot of the right people were there. They :

    • noted the recent rise in vehicle theft,
    • provided a detailed overview of the threat,
    • proposed an “action plan, and
    • agreed to meet every six months.

Just one problem: that 2019 meeting was the only time the VTT ever met, and it appears nothing replaced it. What a missed opportunity!

Five years later, the number of vehicle thefts has soared and the successful recovery rate has plummeted to 23% or less (down from 80% in 2006) – a car vanishing act indicative of organised crime. Crooks now consider car theft an easy win – highly lucrative with a low risk of capture, and lenient sentencing even if caught. Re-establishing the VTT and funding it properly would be a big step in the right direction.”