Currently reading: Land Rover Defender thefts up by 69% as values rise
Discontinued off-roader is being stolen and exported abroad at an alarming rate; owners encouraged to beef up security

The Land Rover Defender has become a target for thieves now production has ended, with claims of stolen cars increasing by 69% in North Yorkshire.

The figures, which were released by insurance company NFU Mutual, compare 2014 with 2015, when claims for Defenders increased by 8%. This brought the total claims cost to NFU Mutaul up to £1.8-million.

Police say a large percentage of stolen Defenders are being shipped and sold abroad, to meet growing demand after production of the model ceased more than two months ago. Owners are now being urged to upgrade the security systems on their cars.

This surge in crime isn’t expected to slow any time soon, because the model’s transition into a modern classic has resulted in values skyrocketing – the two millionth car sold for £400,000 in December 2015 - while NFU's customer insurance claims for stolen Defenders have reached £760,000 in the North East in the past 12 months. This comfortably outweighs the second and third highest claiming regions - the number reached £235,000 in the Midlands and £191,000 in the South East.

Sergeant Nick Hill, of Stokesley Police, commented on the matter earlier this year, explaining that high-tech criminal gangs were overriding the Defender’s standard security systems. "It appears an organised group of criminals is specifically targeting this make and model of vehicle," he said. "Of greatest concern to us is that it is evident these thieves have knowledge of this particular vehicle's factory-fitted security and electrical systems.”

Local police forces have issued recommendations for owners to reduce the chances of their cars being stolen, with Sergeant Hill offering his own advice: "Consider fitting a transponder-based security marking system and tracker device and etching all windows with your vehicle identification number.”

It is thought that markets outside the UK where imports are less effectively monitored account for a large proportion of demand. Rising prices for parts have also meant that some stolen Defenders are being stripped and sold in bits. Police have therefore recommended that buyers check where their used parts have come from, to avoid helping to fund this growing illegal industry.

The Defender went out of production at the end of January2,016,933 units having been sold in the model’s 68-year history. There is no shortage of Defenders outside the UK – Land Rover says it exports 80% of its products, and the Defender accounted for a notable chunk of that – so recent thefts are being attributed to the model’s rising value, rather than a shortage of supply.

We recently drove Twisted’s take on the Defender 90. Read out review of the car here.

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