Car thefts increase by 9%

Motoring groups have expressed concern after new figures showed a 9% increase in vehicle thefts last year.

Police in England and Wales recorded 113,037 offences involving theft or unauthorised taking of a vehicle in 2018, according to the latest annual crime statistics published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The figure is an increase of 47% since the historic low of 70,053 vehicle thefts, recorded between April 2013 and March 2014, the Sunday Times reported.

Last year saw an overall 2% rise in total vehicle offences, which reached 463,497 over the 12-month period. As well as vehicle theft, this includes figures for aggravated vehicle taking, theft from a vehicle and "vehicle interference".

There are fears that keyless technology is making it easier for criminals to steal cars. Using a technique known as a 'relay attack', thieves can trick a vehicle into thinking that the key is closer than it really is, enabling them to gain entry and drive off.

The Association of British Insurers (ABI) said in March that car thieves "have been having a field day".

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"Insurers paid out a record £376m for car theft in 2018, which was partly driven by the vulnerability of some cars to keyless relay theft," explained Laurenz Gerger, policy adviser for motor insurance at the ABI.

AA president Edmund King called the 9% increase in vehicle thefts "very worrying".

"One area of concern is the increase of cars with keyless entry being stolen," he said.

"When it comes to stealing cars, thieves have changed their tactics from 'smash and grab' to 'bounce and roll', as they bounce the radio signals off the key to unlock the car and roll away with it.

"Having access to your keys is the easiest way for a thief to steal your car, so drivers need to ensure they protect them properly."

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