VEHICLE theft in Britain has surged with blackspots emerging across the country, according to a study by accident and security company AX.
The firm, formerly known as Accident Exchange, issued a Freedom of Information request to police forces asking for stolen vehicle data.
Of the 17 forces which responded, Nottinghamshire and Staffordshire saw the largest increases, with Nottinghamshire Police reporting an overall rise of some 60 per cent.
Hertfordshire, Surrey, West Midlands and Essex Police also saw well-above average increases, with each seeing overall surges of more than 40 per cent.
At the other end of the scale, some forces have seen a decrease in motor vehicle thefts, including Merseyside Police and Avon and Somerset Constabulary.
Wiltshire reported the largest drop with a decrease of 79 per cent, followed by Humberside with a 36 per cent drop in reported thefts.
The data relates to the period from 2016 to 2019 in England and Wales and shows that overall theft of motor vehicles increased by 21 per cent in that period.
With the Covid-19 lockdown currently in force the company is warning owners to be cautious with many vehicles now left unattended.
Neil Thomas, AX's director of investigative services and a former detective inspector, has suggested ways to keep cars as secure as possible while off the road.
1. Keep your keys, and yourself, safe and secureMost thieves need the keys to steal your vehicle, so keep them away from the front door to prevent criminals from ‘fishing' them through your letter box. The safety of everyone in your home is much more important though, so avoid taking the keys upstairs with you as it could put families at risk.
2. Double check electronic lockingAlways manually check your vehicle is locked before walking away. Electronic devices that jam the signal from your key fob to prevent your car locking are increasingly common among car thieves.
3. Consider turning off keyless technologyMany systems can be temporarily switched off to prevent electronic compromise and keyless theft and you can consult your local dealer to help do this. You may also wish to place your keys into a signal blocking Faraday pouch.
4. Review your home securityConsider installing motion detecting CCTV at your home to deter thieves. Virtual ‘neighbourhood watch' schemes via social media or WhatsApp can also help alert each other of suspicious activity in the local area.
5. Don't despairIf the worst does happen, there are tracking solutions and vehicle recovery services available to help you locate and recover your vehicle, which could save you from an expensive insurance claim and an increased premium at renewal.
Mr Thomas said: "While the lockdown may temporally reduce some types of car theft, criminals are using increasingly intelligent ways to steal vehicles and continue to find success. The combination of organised crime getting smarter and ability to make quick returns has drastically increased pressure on police forces to control the theft of motor vehicles.
"Car thieves are opportunists and have no respect for property and will remain determined to carry on illegal activity despite the current restrictions on movement across the UK. I have even seen recent reports of vehicles belonging to key workers being stolen.
"During this period of lockdown, it's even more important that car owners remain vigilant and do what they can to keep their car safe while they're using them less frequently, if at all."