Fewer than half of cars stolen in Britain are recovered and returned to their rightful owners, a new investigation has found.
Just 45.3 per cent of motors taken without the consent of their keepers between 2009 and 2018 were traced and reclaimed by UK forces, research by motoring magazine Auto Express shows.
Merseyside Police had the best recovery rates of 75 per cent, while West Midlands had the lowest with fewer than 12 per cent of vehicles stolen from the area being found.
Gone for good: Fewer than half of UK cars that are stolen are recovered by the police, a new Auto Express investigation has found
Auto Express crunched the numbers following a series of Freedom of Information requests to police forces across the UK.
In total it found that 522,214 vehicles had been stolen in the last decade, and just 236,636 of these were marked in police records as being returned to owners.
That’s based on the feedback from 25 forces that responded to the FOI requests.
And recovery rates of vehicles is falling, according to the statistics.
Car theft rates reached a six-year high in 2017, with 43,308 motors being reported as stolen during the year, the magazine said.
The latest recovery figures released this week show that just 46.5 per cent of the cars were found by police – the lowest ratio of returns since 2012.
|Year||Vehicles stolen||Vehicles recovered||Recovery rate|
|2018 (incomplete data)||52,982||21,453||40.5%|
|Source: Auto Express|
Motoring groups claim this could be due to recent policing staff cuts, which have seen a reduction of 20,000 officers in the UK since 2010.
However, Auto Express highlighted that there are inaccuracies within the data, which is caused by how forces report on vehicle thefts and recoveries.
As well as 20 of the 45 forces contacted by the magazine being unable to supply any figures for stolen motors in their areas, some that did reported on ‘vehicle’ data – which is inclusive of stolen motorbikes, vans, lorries and – incredibly – a pinched aeroplane.
Reduced policing numbers were blamed for the falling recovery rates of stolen motors
RAC insurance spokesperson Simon Williams told Auto Express that the latest stats painted an ‘alarming picture’ of vehicle thefts in the UK.
He added: ‘The fact that data appears to be collected and analysed inconsistently in some cases is also a worry – this data is surely the only way to understand the scale of the problem.
‘While it is well-documented that police forces are under severe resource pressures, it is ironic that clearer data would support their case for additional government spending.’
Where are you most – and least – likely to have a stolen car returned?
HIGHEST RECOVERY RATES IN THE LAST DECADE
1. Merseyside Police
35,624 stolen, 26,816 recovered
Recovery rate: 75.3%
2. Northumbria Police
9,956 stolen, 6,887 recovered
Recovery rate: 69.2%
3. Greater Manchester Police
63,064 stolen, 36,460 recovered
Recovery rate: 57.8%
LOWEST RECOVERY RATES IN THE LAST DECADE
1. West Midlands Police
73,644 stolen, 8,643 recovered
Recovery rate: 11.7%
2. Lincolnshire Police
3,630 stolen, 629 recovered
Recovery rate: 17.3%
3. Dorset Police
7,142 stolen, 1,512 recovered
Recovery rate: 21.2%
Source: Auto Express
Kelyess car thefts are a growing problem
As well as reduced numbers, police forces have also been battling an increase in the number of cars being taken from owners’ homes using new high-tech methods by criminal gangs.
Thieves are using hand-held scanners – which are easily bought on the internet – to launch ‘relay attacks’ in which the devices clone the signal being given off by a kelyess fob inside a victim’s house to trick a car parked outside into opening its doors.
Gangs have been targeting premium models from Audi, BMW, Mercedes and Land Rover in particular, with many of these cars being transported overseas for sale.
Separate figures from the Association of British Insurers released last year said insurers paid out a record £271million in car theft claims in the first nine months of 2018 – a 32 per cent rise on the same period a year previous.
It said keyless theft was ‘the main driver’ of the rise.
High-tech car thieves working together can steal your keyless car within a few seconds
Commenting back in November, spokesman Malcolm Tarling said manufacturers were constantly trying to stay one step ahead of sophisticated thieves.
He added: ‘Car criminals don’t stand still. As cars become better protected, criminals see a challenge to break into them.’
As a result of the spike in keyless thefts, motoring retailer Halfords reported that sales of old school security devices like steering locks had doubled in the last year.
It also revealed that anti-hacking signal-blocking device sales had quadrupled in the same time period.
Steering wheel locks might be considered old hat but sales of the anti-theft devices have more than doubled in the last year, according to Halfords
Stolen £40k Lexus found within 2 hours because the owner had a black box fitted for insurance purposes
A £40,00 Lexus RX SUV (like the one pictured here) was found by police because the owner had a black box fitted for insurance purposes
There are cases where insurers have been able to help police track down these vehicles.
An increase in the number of telematics policies – which require that the vehicle is fitted with a black box to monitor its whereabouts and how it is being driven – has helped officers locate stolen cars.
Coverbox, a telematics insurer, said it had help thwart the theft of a £40,000 Lexus SUV stolen from the owner’s driveway when police accessed GPS data from the car’s black box.
The vehicle was returned to the owner just two hours after being reported missing.
Howard Collinge, director at Coverbox said: ‘We are seeing increasing levels of sophistication when it comes to vehicle theft, particularly when it comes to vulnerabilities within popular technologies, such as keyless entry.
‘Black box devices can be an invaluable tool when it comes to protecting one of your most valuable assets.
‘In this case the technology saved both the customer and the insurer significant amounts, and prevented the thieves benefitting from crime.’
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