Car theft is something none of us wants to experience. If faced with a space where our car once was, the first thing we’d do is call the police—and hope this would either bring our car back or, failing that, discover the perpetrator and bring them to justice. Yet, an astonishing 75% of vehicle thefts are remaining unsolved as our police struggle to find the criminals responsible.
This information comes after an analysis of Home Office crime data for 44 police forces, including the British Transport Police. The study also found that the current level of vehicle theft is higher than it’s been in years.
Thieves left unpunished
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) published the figures from the Home Office crime outcomes data for theft or ‘unauthorised taking’ of a motor vehicle and only 4% of cases resulted in charges or summonses being issued. Together, the 44 police forces logged 106,334 offences—the highest figure for the same period since 2009/10.
The analysis found West Midlands Police had closed 91% of recorded vehicle thefts without a suspect being identified, while the Metropolitan Police closed 85% of cases of recorded vehicle thefts for the same reason. The City of London Police were the force with the highest percentage of closed cases, at 96%. In fact, every police force except five forces closed over half of all cases without identifying a suspect.
So why are criminals responsible for three-quarters of all reported stolen cars going unpunished? Police chiefs say it’s due to an increased workload and fewer police officers, which mean they have to prioritise cases with a realistic chance of prosecution.
Criminals given ‘a green light’
The national percentage of vehicle thefts rose by 1% from the previous year to 77%. Over the same period, the number of police officers in England and Wales fell to 122,404 – the lowest number since comparable records began in 1996. Added to this challenge is the increasing number of complex and difficult offences police forces must investigate, such as rape and other violent crime.
Have car thieves become wise to not only the nation’s squeezed police resources but to modern car security, too? Simon Williams, RAC Media Relations Manager thinks so. He said:
“This is a sign that thieves have found ways around car security systems and have ways of selling vehicles on with little or no fear of being caught.
“The fact fewer suspects are being identified is very worrying and no doubt a symptom of the declining number of police officers and the resulting reduction in time that can be dedicated to investigating these crimes.”
Home Office statistics showed an overall increase in the total police workforce, but this number accounted for staff and not police officers, which decreased from the year before, along with Police Community Support Officers, special constables, and officers in ‘front-line roles’.
Labour politician Yvette Cooper MP, said:
“Too many investigations are closing without suspects being identified and we are hearing increasing reports of the police being too overstretched to investigate.
“Police forces are under immense pressure with rising serious and violent crime and changing patterns of crime alongside cuts in the numbers of officers and PCSOs. These figures suggest that investigations into volume crimes are now being hit. Failing to identify suspects gives criminals a green light to re-offend.”
Protect your property
So, if getting your vehicle back or hoping to see a thief punished is unlikely to happen, the best way to protect yourself from car theft is to work on prevention. Here are steps you can take to keep your car safe:
Double-check you’ve locked your car and beware of thieves who use ‘jammer’ devices to disrupt the signal between the fob and the car, leaving it unlocked and vulnerable to theft. You can do this by putting it in a tin box, and stow it safely in a draw.
Wherever you park, turn your car wheels, as thieves will avoid vehicles that take more effort and time to move. Use a driveway if you have one—thieves will favour cars further from houses—and always drive in rather than reverse in and out again. Try to use car parks with security patrols and/or CCTV, and park close to other cars.
To reduce the risk of carjacking in slow-moving traffic or a traffic jam, wherever possible, close your windows, lock your doors and hide any valuables.
The best way to secure your vehicle is with a tracker. Although this won’t prevent theft, it increases the chance of the car being recovered by the police. If you don’t have any car security, make fitting an immobiliser the priority. Car thieves avoid cars with visible devices and deterrents such as stickers warning of alarms and trackers. Any alarm is good but factory-fitted ones are the most secure and may also lower the cost of your car insurance.
Use a sturdy lock for the steering wheel, pedals or gearstick, and get your car’s registration number etched onto your car windows. These old-fashioned deterrents are making a comeback in our digital age.
You risk getting both a fine and your car stolen if you leave your car unattended with the engine idling. Whenever you leave the car, switch off the engine and lock the doors.
Never leave your keys unattended in public and when you’re at home, make sure your keys are out of sight and out of reach—and don’t be one 96% of motorists at risk of having their car stolen using a ‘relay attack’. Never take your keys upstairs or hide them in the bedroom though—it’s better to let a determined car thief have access to your vehicle rather than put yourself or your family at risk.
Have you ever had your car stolen? What was the outcome? What measures do you take to secure your vehicle against thieves? Tell us in the comments.
New cars are getting ridiculous expensive, attract unwanted attention, its not hard for would be thieves to follow you home to find out where you live or travel patterns where you park and leave the car for an extended period of time.
Even if you presented HDMI colour CCTV footage of the thieves parading full faced in front of the camera, the police would say they have lack of evidence for a prosecution. The police are now unfit for purpose, they have been politically motivated to attend to homophobic and racist cases, plus the usual excuse on checking on the gun toting gangs of drug dealers infesting Birmingham at present, and even then, they are powerless. Virtually all speed cameras have been turned off, so a speeding motorist, with a spliff in one hand and a mobile in the other, will never be caught, unless the police have just reason to do so. The chance of getting a stolen car back is virtually nil.
If a £30,000+ car is stolen, the police do not bat an eyelid. They just give you an incident number………………and hope for the best. Use a digger and rob an ATM of £20,000 and they are all over it like a bad rash…………mmmm! Something wrong with their way of thinking methinks. Investigating a digger theft generates more publicity. It involves forsensics etc and the public love it. gives the police credibility and cudos. Theft of a car? BORING………………….!
My car was ‘opened’ not broken into, nothing was broken/damaged. I did not realise that putting everything out of sight in my car and storing the keys in a cupboard at the back of the house is not relevant when the thieves have a jamming device.
I have now purchased 2 faraday cage pouches one for my spare set of keys. I have taken off the garage’s key fob and attached my key to the pouch. My question is why don’t the garages provide these in the first place? the pouch cost me less than £3.
Have you checked that the Faraday cages actually work? Any of those on offer are little better than a paper bag!
There are just as many police as there’s always been. Why bother though? Nobody cares about enforcing the law, it’s all a big joke, a bit of fun. A bit of a laugh when caught!
Back in the 70’s, there were regular stops and checks on your car, you felt as if you could get away with nothing. The police had a list of things that were wrong with new cars back then and you’d get done for having an unroadworthy vehicle, even though it might be as efficient as when new. They would take great delight in pushing your car along with the handbrake on. Except mine, which caused some consternation. You wouldn’t get far with a lamp out either. I’d had a light go and fixed it, the local Bobby said he’s noticed that but hadn’t caught me before I fixed it. You didn’t always carry a sealed beam unit and the dip element was always going. You’d always be pulled up after midnight as well, for a lengthy chat.
We live on a modern quiet estate in Prestatyn and there are persistent car ‘openings’ I just want to point out that if you have a Modern Mercedes (mine is just under 3 years old), rather than using keyless at night by pressing the door handle just press the keyfob lock twice and it cuts off keyless until next time you unlock the car so if thieves come to the house with the device to extend the key range to the car it won’t work. This beats having to mess around putting keys in tins or Faraday pouch. Note this doesn’t work with BMW’s as 2nd press of lock switches off movement detection inside the car. I don’t know what other cars are protected like the Merc and certainly don’t know why mercedes don’t advertise this fact but I would recommend everyone Google’s their make and model of car to see if it does have further protection.
There’s not as many Police as there’s always been.
I remember “back in the 70’s” the things you mention and being stopped after midnight ‘for a chat’. The young copper didn’t seem to think that anyone should be out after midnight and wasn’t happy when it was pointed out that he was out after midnight, that some people including him work shifts and if he waited around long enough in a couple of hours he’d see a small electric vehicle with bottles on rattling down the road and why didn’t he stop him and ask what he was up to. He then told me to get out of the car and push it with him. When I asked why he said to see if the handbrake works. As I proceeded to get out and he was proceeding to walk round the front I stuck it into Park so It wouldn’t move.
Is it against the law to have dud lights ? Could’ve fooled me…. But then again the only police we see here are speed traps designed to make money, and Met police cars being driven by speeding or incompetent drivers on their way to a murder or a teabreak. In the past people respected the police authority, usually cos the local police were seen about doing good deeds, and acted correctly themselves, wheras nowadays there’s no respect and most coppers struggle to drive legally themselves so wouldnt know a bad driver or unroadworthy car if they drove into one..
Seems to me if most police forces close cases so easily it is an encouragement to the criminals. As I understand it they only investigate 4 out of 10 cases and solve only 1 of those…if I could place a bet with a 90% chance of winning I think I would take it. The criminals seem to take the same attitude and then in the small number of cases when caught they are only wrapped over the knuckles with minimum fines, its not a deterrent to anyone so inclined.
I recently changed my car, it has keyless ignition, with a start/stop button.
I heard these are one of the scumbag theives favourite.
I quickly got two Faraday bags.
Believe me they work, the car could not pickup the fob signal, no matter how I tried. A very small price to pay that could save me a lot of grief…!!!!
“Fewer police officers” – I was out on Sunday and approached a short stretch of duel carriageway which had a 60 limit in a rural area and there was one of those vans parked on the verge trying to catch someone going a mile or 2 over the limit. Fields both sides so maybe a danger to the odd hedgehog and they call these safety cameras. Catch the motorist = MONEY. Catch the criminal = a pat on the back and NO MONEY.
I would suggest we are asked to prioritise what the police do on our behalf as after all, it is we who pay them. Perhaps then instead of wasting time investigating so called ‘hate’ crimes & enforcing ever lower speed limits, they might spend more time catching real criminals.
Until we can protect our cars with devices that electricute or set fire to the thieves, they will more than likely carry on stealing.
Agree, except sadly we’ll be arrested for attempted or actual GBH or whatever fits the (old) bill.
You have suggested several times about driving into a driveway, I have always believed it to be against the law to revers onto a road, especially a Main road
I don’t think it is against the law, just bad driving practice that merely contravenes the advice in The Highway Code.
Police in general disregard anything related with cars. Most of the time they just advise claim insurance and state “it is not in public interest to investigate” (as if it is them who decides). Obviously, if you not going to investigate the case, you won’t find criminals. That is like trying to win lottery without buying the ticket… and that is negligent if not criminal in itself. Police must investigate all crimes – that is their job. Not all crimes going to be solved and not all crimes requires prosecution, but all have to be investigated. This trend is now continuing for years – as long as it is not violent crime police do not pay attention, this obviously drives crime numbers back and in long run actually increases strain on police itself. And don’t make mistake – it is not cuts.. this is attitude. Finally, guess why car insurance prices are astronomical – that because insurance not only pays for accidents, nowadays it often pays simply for police laziness.
This is exactly what I expected to hear because the police aren’t even following up with any intention of finding the culprits. We bought a stolen car and were never even interviewed by the police or asked who or where we bought it from. We have a whole trail of evidence waiting for that conversation but police haven’t bothered to contact us. I’ve always been quite pro-police but a small number of incidents in the last 3 years has caused me to lose complete faith in their willingness to identify criminals. There is a whole industry being paid to deal with stolen vehicles (thieves, mechanics, bogus sellers, insurance company, police, police contractors, recovery vehicle operators, independent insurance and damage assessors, auctioneers, vehicle traders, etc.) so why would anyone want to bring a halt to that. All of these people are being paid by the victims of the crime. The victim loses, everyone else’s takes their cut to sort it out. There’s no point in reporting it because no-one wants to deal with it.
My wife has just had a replacement knee fitted. On Friday 28 December I took her to the local surgery to have clips removed that left her in considerable pain. It was difficult getting her in and out of the transport, up some steps, into the hall and finally get her in a comfortable sitting/lying down position. I made her some toast and coffee and then left to go shopping. However……………the car had been parked on the drive adjacent to the front door. Whilst getting her in board I had inadvertently left door keys and ignition key in the front door of the house. The car had been stolen.
The police were contacted and turned up after some 10 minutes. As I had already reported the theft they informed me that the details were already within the PNC system. They were here for an hour taking statements and were very professional.
2 days later I was informed that the car had been recovered and taken to a local police pound where it would be inspected by a forensic team. A number of tools had been left in the car by the thief plus a pair of white trainers.
Today 3 January l was told the car could be picked up. No damage had been done and 1 item was missing, a key to the house front door. However front and rear number plates had been removed. Without these I could not drive the car home.
Also the villain had been caught, arrested and would be in court at the end of the month.
People have complained about police performance and performance. Personally I have found them far above reproach. MaybeI am one of the lucky 4%
For those interested the following costs have been incurred.
1. £150 for vehicle recovery.
2. £62 for replacement house keys.
3. £32 for replacement number plates.
Currently I am unaware of the insurance ramifications but tomorrow am due a conference phone call. Additionally there is a peutrid smell inside where half empty bottles are scattered over the mats and will,require a valeting.
very pleased to hear this, but mine and my friends experiences were VERY different. You don’t mention what part of the UK you live in – I suspect it’s not one of the big cities. I live in the London area and you won’t see a Met policeman here unless you try and murder someone, or say something possibly a little racist to a non British citizen. Years ago I would defend the Police, but many years of bad real-life expereriences, plus the comments of my friends who joined the force to do good, but then left cos they were not backedup by the courts , and now…. good luck with your case, but I guarantee you’ll be changing insurers when yr renewal quote comes along.
Interesting about the conference call! My lodger had a write off accident on the motorway recently and was required to take part in a conference call involving the DVLA, the claim handling company and herself. It turned out to be a fishing excercise regarding her convictions history! We were eventually told this prior to the call when we called the DVLA, the claims handlers AND the actual insurance company were either unable or unwilling to tell us the purpose of the call!
I had my car stolen a year ago. The police said that they investigated it. The car turned up after a member of the public complained to police about it being abandoned on a derelict house driveway. This was about 4 months after it had been stolen. The police did some forensics on the vehicle but were unable to find anything and so closed the case. The car was declared a write off. So I didn’t see the car again. The car was a fiesta with keyless entry. The car was locked and parked on the street when it was stolen.
My car was broken into in a ‘safe’ car park with a camera on it. The police were not interested. They said I could check with the camera operators if I wanted to. The camera operators laughed and said it HAS to be the Police who investigate. Result…I got a claim number …and watch my insurance go up later this year.
t the Police prosecute when they do get the perpetrators ?? answer: too much paperwork involved andt have enough evidence ! You only have to watch programmes such as Police
the stock answer is...well we don
Interceptors…they catch them red handed, take them to the local nick, book `em in for the night, feed them and then
send them on their way with no more than a slap on the wrist…..only for the scroats to go straight out and start again.
Put them inside for 5 years minimum, no remission, to tv, no snooker, no gym, no telephones……just 12 hours a day
hard work, make prison a place where they will NEVER want to re-visit ! Crime epidemic halved in one hit !