The number of car thefts in Britain has surged by 30% in three years, sparking fears that thieves are becoming more technologically advanced.
A total of 85,688 car thefts were recorded by the police in 2016, 19,905 more than in 2013, despite vast advances in car security systems.
The RAC, which produced the figures, cites improvements in the equipment used by thieves to hack into digital car protection features as the main cause.
London remains the country’s car theft capital, with its share of total thefts rising from 24% in 2013 to 31% in 2016. Thefts in London totalled 26,496 vehicles in 2016, up 28% from 2013.
The West Midlands and West Yorkshire saw the biggest growth in thefts during the same period, with 2016 thefts amounting to 5930 and 5597 vehicles respectively, increases of 43% and 57% on 2013 figures.
Greater Manchester was the next most affected area, with the local police force recording 4999 stolen vehicles in 2016. Essex and Thames Valley followed with 3623 and 2799 vehicles taken in 2016 respectively.
“We fear thieves are now becoming more and more well equipped with technology capable of defeating car manufacturers’ anti-theft systems,” explained RAC insurance director Mark Godfrey.
“Technology advances in immobilisers, keys and car alarms had caused the number of vehicle thefts to decrease significantly from more than 300,000 in 2002, but sadly they have now increased after bottoming out in 2013 and 2014.”
Despite the recent surge in thefts, the Society of Motor Manufacturer and Traders (SMMT) believes the rise shouldn’t overshadow the vast progress car brands have made in improving security technology.
SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes said: “New cars have never been more secure and the latest technology has helped bring down theft dramatically - which is why less than 0.3% of the vehicles on our roads is stolen today.
“Manufacturers invest billions to stay one step ahead of the criminals and the latest models feature sophisticated immobilisers, tracking devices and encrypted key codes to prevent cloning.”
Hawes said the SMMT was pushing for more safeguards to prevent the sale of illegal devices that enable key cloning and signal blocking, which are listed as the most favoured systems used by modern thieves.