England and Wales's car theft hot spots named: where does your region rank?

Home Office data reveals regions with sharpest increase in crime as almost 130,000 vehicles stolen last year
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The worst regions for car thefts in England and Wales have been revealed by new police figures. 

Analysis of Home Office figures by NationalWorld’s data team has revealed the police forces with the biggest car theft problems as well as the areas where crime is rising most rapidly amid concerns that new technology is making thieves' lives easier.

The latest figures cover every force in England and Wales except Devon and Corwall and show that on average vehicle thefts have risen 11.2% since 2019, with a total of 129,885 incidents recorded by police in 2022. 

Theft rates fell sharply during 2020 at the peak of the Covid pandemic, dropping from around 117,000 in 2019 to just over 98,000 before jumping back up to 104,000 the following year and climbing to almost 130,000 last year.

The West Midlands was the worst area in the country, with a theft rate more than double the national average. In total, West Midlands Police recorded 14,916 vehicle thefts in 2022 - equivalent to 511.5 per 100,000 people. Across England and Wales as a whole, the average rate was 224.5 thefts per 100,000. 

South Yorkshire saw the second highest crime rate, with 390 thefts per 100,000 of the population. However, it also saw the sharpest increase in incidents over the four years, with South Yorkshire Police reporting a 61.9% rise in cases - from 3,311 to 5,360 - compared with a 45.5% increase in West Midlands.

London - covered by the Metropolitan and City of London forces - saw the most thefts overall, with 32,797 incidents recorded. But with a population of almost 8.8 million, that translated into a rate of 372.8 thefts per 100,000, placing the capital third overall in the crime rankings. 

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At the opposite end of the table, Dyfed-Powys in Wales recorded the lowest rate of thefts per 100,000 people as well as the overall fewest crimes. Despite being England and Wales's largest force area by geographical area, it has among the smallest populations and, with just 222 thefts recorded last year, it reported the lowest overall crime rate at 43 thefts per 100,000. The figure also represented an 18.4% drop in incidents compared with 2019. 

Suffolk’s rate of 66 per 100,000 people put it just ahead of Dyfed-Powys, although the 504 cases represented a 25.8% drop in crimes compared with four years previously. In contrast, Cumbria, which saw the third-lowest crime rate - 68.7 per 100,000 - also saw an 11% increase in incidents between 2019 and 2022. 

The figures for 41 of the 42 forces in England and Wales show that the majority of forces have experienced a rise in vehicle thefts but 15 forces saw a reduction in cases over the four years. The biggest drop came in Norfolk, where the 634 reported thefts marked a 28.2% drop on the number in 2019. Suffolk saw a similar reduction in cases, with a 25.8% drop in thefts while both South and North Wales Police recorded a decrease of 17.8%. 

Thieves exploiting keyless entry technology are thought to be partly to blame for the rising theft rates.

Late last year insurer Aviva revealed that customers whose cars featured the technology were twice as likely to make a theft claim as those who didn’t have the function. Data from the Office for National Statistics also showed that in 2020 it was the most common means of vehicle theft and police have warned owners of cars with the technology to take extra precautions to protect their vehicles.

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