Around 10% fewer cars were stolen in 2020 and almost all thefts were the work of organised criminals, new figures show.
Last year 6,434 cars were registered as stolen, with three-year-old vehicles the most popular among thieves and the least likely to be recovered. Only around 30% of such vehicles were traced.
Volkswagen was the most stolen make of car, representing 1,192 of thefts or 18.5% of the total. The most frequently targeted models were the Toyota CH-R, the Toyota RAV and the Fiat 500.
Newer cars are popular with thieves because of the keyless entry system, which criminals are able to intercept so they can break into a vehicle without stealing the key, Hendrik Steller of the National Vehicle Crime Information Centre (LIV) told NOS.
‘The key and the car are constantly trying to connect with each other. Manufacturers are now working on stopping the transmission of the signal if the key is not moving. But if you keep the key in something like a metal tin, it blocks the signal.’
Steller said the figures continued a long-term decline in car theft, which is now dominated by professional criminals. ‘We hardly come across opportunistic theft nowadays,’ he said.
Newer cars are typically stolen for export, with Toyotas popular in African countries such as Ivory Coast and Nigeria, while Mazdas and Land Rovers are more likely to turn up in Eastern Europe.
Older vehicles tend to be stolen for parts. Since 2018 more than 3,500 vehicles have been recovered from scrap yards and car dealers, often in combination with drugs raids.
Steller added that there was anecdotal evidence that the curfew was restricting thieves’ working hours. ‘But as soon as it gets to 4.30am, they go straight to work,’ he said.