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Police fail to recover nearly half the UK’s stolen cars

Eleanor Newis
Jan 10, 2019

Research finds 45.3% of cars are never returned to their owners.

Fewer than half the cars stolen in Britain are eventually recovered and given back to their owners, a new investigation has found.

Only 45.3% of cars taken without the permission of their owners between 2009 and 2018 were returned, according to a new study by the motoring magazine Auto Express.

The best rates of vehicle return were held by Merseyside Police. They recovered 75% of cars. The lowest rates were held by the West Midlands Police, who only had a recovery rate of 12%.

This information came to light after Auto Express put in a Freedom of Information request to police forces across the UK.

In total, they found that 522,214 vehicles were stolen in the last decade, and out of these only 236,636 were recorded by police as being returned. The figures are based on 25 police forces.

Additionally, the numbers show that the rate of recovery is in fact falling — less cars are being found every year. Car theft also reached a six-year high in 2017, with a total of 43,308 cars being stolen during that year.

The most recent recovery figures show that 46.5% of cars were found by police, meaning we have reached the lowest percentage of returns since 2012.

Motoring groups are claiming that this might be due to recent staff cuts in police forces — they have seen a reduction of 20,000 officers in the UK since 2010.

RAC insurance spokesperson Simon Williams told Auto Express that these figures painted an ‘alarming picture’ of vehicle theft 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 is it well-documented that police forces are under severe resource pressures, it is ironic that clearer data would support their case for additional government spending.’

There are also new high tech methods for car theft. This includes criminals using hand-held scanners to launch ‘relay attacks’ in which the devices clone the signal being given off by a driver’s keyless fob whilst it is inside their house. The car therefore opens easily for the criminal.

Separate figures from the Association of British Insurers (ABI) last year showed that insurers paid out a record £271 million in car theft payouts in the first nine months of 2018.

A Spokesperson for the ABI, Malcolm Tarling, said: ‘Car criminals don’t stand still. As cars become better protected, criminals see a challenge to break into them.’

With the rise of keyless car theft and the failure of the police to locate stolen vehicles, it is more important than ever to make sure you have adequate car insurance. You might be left with hefty bills and face having to pay out thousand for a new car if you don’t take out the right policy. 

Use a comparison site like A Spokesman Said to grab the best deal for your car and your driving habits, and stay safe from the rise in car theft.


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