Arrests for car crime are low. What does that mean for you?

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Will Kerr

Having your vehicle stolen feels absolutely horrible and comes with a bunch of stress. It’s a big – and very unpleasant – deal. 

You might think that a crime like that would be serious enough to mean the police would be right on the case – with some chance of catching those responsible. Unfortunately, in most parts of the country, that simply isn’t true. 

(Psst! If you’re not interested in hearing about arrest stats and things like that, you can just skip ahead to our car crime prevention tips.)

Has car crime been decriminalised?

The short answer is: No.

Despite what some (slightly over-dramatic) headlines have claimed, the police have not just given up on car crime. That said, it does need to be pointed out that their chances of being able to help you are really low. They have a lot to deal with. Sadly, some of it is even worse than car crime. As a result, car thieves are rarely arrested.

In London, the West Midlands and Surrey, less than 0.5% of thefts from vehicles result in a conviction. That means your odds of the thief being caught would be 1 in 200, at best. The chances of your stuff being recovered would be even lower. 

Bear in mind, we’re talking about theft from your car, here. When it comes to the car itself being stolen, the figures are a little better. (But really not a lot considering your car’s gone). 

Nationally, just under 5% of car thefts result in someone being apprehended. But things are worse in larger cities. In London and Birmingham, car thieves are charged about half as often (2.5% of the time). 

Will the car crime situation improve?

Not likely. Well, not in the near future anyway. 

We prefer to be glass-half-full types*, but the outlook for car crime isn’t pretty right now. The cost of living crisis isn’t going to end any time soon – and hard times lead to rises in crime. Car crime is particularly attractive at the moment for a couple of reasons: 

There was a pretty large increase in car crime in 2021/22, which could largely just be seen as things going back to their ‘normal’ level after the pandemic. But with the economy as it is, you probably wouldn’t bet on crime going down yet.

*If you’re looking to be a bit more optimistic about things, check out this graph. As you can see, car crime today is actually way, way down from where it was in the early 2000’s. If you zoom out, things were actually going really well in terms of reducing car crime. It’s just in the last 5 years or so the stats have started creeping up. 

Why are car crime convictions so low?

Unfortunately, there isn’t anything very special about car crime. Theft in general has had very low conviction rates in recent years. In fact, 84% of neighbourhoods didn’t solve a single case of personal theft over the whole of the last 3 years

Most people put this down to cuts in policing. Between 2012 and 2016, total employment in the police fell by almost 20%. More recently, there’s been a drive to get numbers back up, but: 

  • The raw number of people working in the police is still lower than it was in 2011. 
  • The population has grown by 3.5 million. 

When you put those two things together, it means the police force is still more than 10% smaller than it was in 2011.  

police cuts
There are less police out there than back in 2011.

The reason car crimes grabs headlines is that, for most people, a car’s the most expensive thing they own that can actually be stolen. (Thieves haven’t found a way of making off with whole houses yet). If your car is the last thing you’d want stolen, you need to be aware that car crime prevention is really down to you…

How can I prevent car crime?

Conviction rates aren’t going to put criminals off. But you can. 

Before you start knocking up a costume and workshopping superhero names, we’re not talking about any kind of vigilante stuff. Lycra is really unforgiving, and besides – there’s no need. All you need to do is make sure your car isn’t an easy target. 

Make life hard for the crooks and chances are they’ll look elsewhere. So here’s a checklist you should consider following: 

Get a steering lock. 

They aren’t invincible. But they do add an extra hassle for thieves to deal with. So, chances are they’d rather pick a different target than deal with the challenge. Our buyer’s guide to steering locks covers options for all budgets. 

steering wheel lock
Steering wheel locks help prevent car crime.

Get a ‘cat cage’.

Catalytic converter theft went through the roof in recent years. Our guide has plenty of tips you can use to prevent it, but two things you should consider are having a cage fitted around it, or parking in a place where people can’t get access to your tailpipe. 

Be careful with your keyless fob. 

Annoyingly, keyless entry isn’t just convenient for you – it can make lives easier for thieves too. But don’t worry. Our guide to keyless car theft is full of tips you can use to protect your car. If you’re too lazy to click to the link – hey – no judgement. The main takeaway is that your fob should be kept away from your front door, preferably in a faraday pouch

Keyless car theft is rising. But it can be prevented.

Park in the safest spot possible.

If you’re able to park in a garage or behind a locked gate, be sure to do so. If those aren’t options, a spot covered by CCTV is going to be less attractive for thieves. 

Keep your valuables out of sight. 

Despite the very prescriptive name, you can actually put anything you want in your glove box. If you’re leaving anything valuable in your car, lock it in there. 

Use a tracker.

Being able to track your car gives you a much better chance of getting it back should the worst happen. We’ve used our ability to locate members’ cars to recover a high proportion of our their stolen vehicles. In fact, Jordan from our Customer Experience team once helped recover 6 stolen vehicles in one month. 

To put that into context, the entire Metropolitan police force only recover about 30 a day. Not bad considering we’re talking about just one member of our team. And that we’re an insurance provider – not a detective agency (although, thinking about it, that’d be pretty cool).

It just goes to show show effective these tools can be. 

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