Britain's black hole

of car theft

THE media is awash with research figures and surveys, but one of the most worrying sets of figures to come to light over the last few weeks concern the number of vehicle thefts that do not seem to be investigated by the police.

In fact, the theft of as many as 30,000 vehicle thefts a year, worth £229 million, are not pursued according to new research.

Data from 43 of 45 UK police forcesfrom the last six years shows that, of the estimated 117,000 cars a year stolen in the UK, 59,000 are lost entirely and half of these are deemed not worthy of police investigation potentially because of cuts to police budgets.

The hardest hit are businesses, because police often classify the taking of fleet or courtesy cars a ‘civil crime' and will not automatically open a case if a car is thought to have gone missing.

Last year a report by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary, which assesses police forces across the UK, revealed that, on average, a quarter of vehicle theft-related crimes in 2013 were not attended to by police.

The new research, by Accident Exchange and its motor fraud investigation team, APU, found that an estimated 700,000 theft-related car crimes took place between 2009 and 2014.

And, based on average used car values, APU estimates a total monetary loss of £450 million for all vehicles not recovered and of this £229 million for those that were not investigated at all.

The fact is that if a vehicle owned by a business rather than an individual - such as a fleet vehicle or garage courtesy car - goes missing, frequently the police tend to consider it a civil crime because the business has effectively allowed someone the use of that car.

But it isn't just companies that are affected by the findings because a proportion of those thefts not looked into will be private car owners too.

The APU is manned by former police officers and offers accident investigation services to solicitors and insurance companies submitted Freedom of Information requests to all 44 police forces in the UK but found that part of the problem is that the way vehicle theft data is compiled is entirely arbitrary, with each force recording different information in different formats.

It is certain evidence that police, insurance firms, law enforcement agencies and private companies should be making efforts to join forces to give car thieves a real headache.

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