With motor thefts on the rise due to criminals using a host of new technologies and techniques, a new study has revealed which areas are most at threat.
Cleveland Police in the North East reported one of the lowest volumes of car thefts across 36 different forces who responded to the recent study, at 793 vehicles stolen in total in 2022.
However, with just 76,807 cars registered in the region, drivers living there have the highest likelihood of having their vehicle pinched, with 12.67 stolen for every 1,000 registered motors, the report calculated.
Find out how high up the rankings your area sits for car crime as we exclusively list the results from every police force below.
These are the 10 parts of the country worst hit by the rise in motor theft. The ratio is based on car thefts per 1,000 vehicles registered in each area
The numbers reveal Cleveland has a higher theft ratio than London, despite Met Police receiving 35,220 reports of stolen vehicles last year.
However, with over three million (3,060,988) cars registered in the capital, its theft ratio per 1,000 vehicles was lower at 11.51.
This was enough to be second in the rankings, ahead of South Yorkshire, which has a 2022 motor theft ratio of 10.67 vehicles per 1,000 registered in the region.
The research looking into the nation’s car theft hotspots has been carried out by comparison website Go Compare.
It sent a Freedom of Information requests to all 45 police forces across the UK, with 36 coming back with figures.
Those that failed to provide data include City of London Police, Thames Valley Police, Sussex Police, Hampshire and Isle of Wight Constabulary, Devon and Cornwall Police, Humberside Police, Greater Manchester Police, South Wales Police, and Police Scotland.
Using Department for Transport data on the number of registered motors in each region, it then calculated what the theft ratio for each is based on the number of cars – then ranked the areas by risk.
Meanwhile, at the opposite end of the scale, the police force area with the lowest ratio of car thefts was Dyfed-Powys in Wales, with only 0.49 thefts for every 1,000 registered cars.
Gloucestershire, Cumbria, Suffolk and Norfolk also all had a car theft ratio below one in every 1,000 vehicles.
Cleveland Police reported one of the lowest volumes of car thefts across 36 different forces who responded to the recent study, at 793 vehicles stolen in total in 2022. Yet this is a theft rate of 12.67 cars stolen per 1,000 registered in the area
Almost half of all police forces reported the Ford Fiesta has the most stolen model in their areas
The study also supported exclusively data provided to This is Money that shows the Ford Fiesta was the UK’s most stolen model last year.
A massive 3,392 Fiestas were reported as stolen by owners in Britain in 2022, which is unsurprisingly, given it’s the most-owned car in Britain.
Go.Compare’s own research found that the incredibly popular supermini was named the most stolen car in 2022 by almost half (48 per cent) of all police forces it contacted, compared to less than a third (30 per cent) in 2019.
Fiestas have become increasingly targeted by thieves since Ford announced a year ago that its volume-selling small car was to be axed this summer.
With production eventually ceasing in July, a massive second-hand parts market has been created because new parts for these vehicles are also no longer being produced.
And with over 1.5 million licenced Fiestas on our roads today, there is likely to be big demand for used parts.
‘Criminals have been quick to jump on this opportunity, lucratively selling on stolen Ford Fiesta parts on the black-market,’ Clive Wain, a former detective chief superintendent and now head of police liaison at Tracker, told This is Money in September.
Tom Banks, motoring expert at Go Compare, said: ‘Car theft is always a concern for car owners. Although you can take precautions, it’s not an event that can be fully predicted or avoided.
‘Knowing which locations bring the biggest risk of theft can help drivers take extra safety measures, especially for those with more coveted cars.
‘Ensuring your vehicle is properly covered by your insurance can also help reduce anxiety surrounding car theft.’
He added: ‘If you have the misfortune of having your car stolen, you should immediately contact the police to file a report. Remember to ask for the crime reference number, as you’ll need this to begin a claim with your insurer.’
Below is the list of the 36 police forces who responded and the order of vehicle theft risk:
|Police force||Number of reported thefts in 2022||Car registrations per area in 2022||2022 Ratio (number of thefts per 1000 vehicles)|
|Avon and Somerset||2,545||2,000,291||1.27|
|Source: Go.Compare Car Insurance using car theft data provided by 36 police forces and vehicle registration figures published by the DfT at the end of 2022|
*The data used excludes the following UK police forces, due to a lack of information provided: City of London Police, Thames Valley Police, Sussex Police, Hampshire and Isle of Wight Constabulary, Devon and Cornwall Police, Humberside Police, Greater Manchester Police, South Wales Police, and Police Scotland.
Catalytic converter crime is falling but vehicle thefts are on the rise due to parts shortage, says Admiral
Separate research conducted by insurer Admiral has revealed how criminals are changing their behaviour and tactics to car theft in recent months.
Catalytic converters – particularly on older hybrid cars – have been the target for criminals for several years due to the high-value metals they contain, but new research suggests thieves have turned their attention to stealing cars and stripping them down as the cost and scarcity of car parts continues.
Analysis of its own claims data has found that catalytic converter thefts are down 76 per cent year-on-year but keyless vehicle thefts are on the rise.
It estimates that nine in 10 (93 per cent) of all cars that were stolen and recovered in 2022 were taken without the keys present.
And once a car is pinched, there is little chance of it being recovered.
Figures attained from 39 UK forces via a freedom of information request by Nextbase last month showed that between 2019 and 2022 just 6.7 per cent of 396,000 reported car crimes resulted in someone being charged, let alone vehicles being returned.
Criminals usually go in pairs to steal keyless cars. One holds a transmitter and stands next to the vehicle while the other stands close to the house holding an amplifier
This graphic shows the four-step explanation for how criminals use relay attacks to steal motors
And Admiral’s own data shows the recovery rate for vehicles is between 45 per cent and 50 per cent, with pinched cars often quickly moved to illegal ‘chop shops’ across the country for dismantling for their lucrative parts or if stolen to order, shipped abroad.
Clive Wain, adds: ‘There has been a boom in chop shops over the last few years due to the increased demand for car parts.
‘Historically we saw most chop shops set up near UK ports as cars were stripped and their parts shipped overseas.
‘However, the increased value and scarcity of car parts in the UK has meant more cars are taken to chop shops in other parts of the UK.
‘Last year we located 44 chop shops nationally and have seen them springing up in the West Midlands, South Yorkshire, Greater Manchester and Nottinghamshire, it’s easy to become a target as a car can be stolen and moved at speed.’
Five security tips to protect your car from thieves using hi-tech tactics
1. Keep your key fob well away from your vehicle – and store it in a Faraday wallet
To best protect against keyless car theft, always place the keyfob as far away from the vehicle as you can and store it in a location that is not close to doors or windows in your property.
Halfords sells faraday pouches for £5
Even keeping them upstairs or in a room that’s the furthest distance from your driveway will not guarantee that a criminal using relay tactics won’t be able to infiltrate the signal.
For the best level of protection, owners of cars with keyless tech should purchase a Faraday pouch or wallet.
You can buy these online for as little as £5. They isolate the key fob’s signal so it can’t be replicated by thieves.
Metal tins and boxes will also provide similar protective levels, as will keeping your key fob in a fridge freezer, microwave or oven – just remember they are in there before turning on the latter two.
Also, don’t forget about your spare keys and apply the same level of care you would to your main keys or fob.
Keeping your keyless fob in a tin will block the signal and prevent thieves from duplicating it to break into your vehicle
2. Invest in extra anti-theft protection
A simple steering wheel lock or wheel clamp might look ugly but are a great tool to deter even the hardiest criminals with the most tech.
They will act as a visual deterrent for thieves who will likely avoid them.
For a criminal to remove a steering wheel lock typically requires the use of noisy drills or saws to cut through, and therefore they are the ideal first line of defence for owners with models that have keyless car tech.
Drivers should also consider wheel clamps as well as having alarm systems and trackers (read more about these below) installed.
Owners of vans with keyless technology should also consider fitting deadbolts for additional protection, especially if they store expensive tools and items in their commercial vehicles overnight.
3. Be mindful when locking the doors
It may sound simple but always make sure your vehicle is locked every time you leave it – especially in busy car parks where thieves often use signal blockers.
Many drivers also don’t realise that on some vehicle models if you press your key fob only once your car will only be single locked.
This means that if you smashed the window you could manually open the car by reaching in and pulling the handle from the inside.
To double lock, key fobs can require a second press of the locking button to engage the full security features. It is important to read your car’s manual when you first get it and familiarise how to securely lock your car when you’re not in it.
4. Think carefully about where you park overnight
Most often, keyless car thefts take place on owners’ driveways. While motorists might think having their vehicle in such close proximity to their property guarantees its security, this is certainly not the case when it comes to relay thefts – quite the contrary, in fact, as it means the car is closer to where they keys are inside your home.
That’s why owners with off-street parking should consider additional measures.
Driveway parking posts are a cheap but efficient way of deterring would-be thieves.
Drivers can also go one step further and install lockable gates in their driveway, while simple CCTV systems can provide further peace of mind.
Luxury cars, which are at greater risk of theft, should be parked in a locked garage where possible.
For those without off-street parking who leave their cars on the road outside their home, you are also not safe from these criminals.
Consider parking further away from your property than usual – and try to find a space under a streetlight so that thieves are exposed when trying to steal your car at night.
If you live on a residential street where there are also business, park outside one with a CCTV camera installed.
5. Install a tracking device in your car
Installing a tracker system in your vehicle, such as a Thatcham approved device, offers an extra layer of security.
A tracking device won’t stop your vehicle being stolen, but it significantly increases the chances of the police recovering and returning it to you.
They cost from between £250 and £800 and the most secure use military-grade tech to locate the whereabouts of cars.