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Crime and security

Car crime is falling and has been doing so consistently, on every measure, since 1995. However, the nature of car crime is changing.

While the number of cars on the road has increased by 49%1 over the last 20 years, car crime has fallen by 65% to 1,497,000 incidents in 2007/8, from its peak of 4,350,000 incidents in 19957. In real terms it means the likelihood of a vehicle being subjected to crime of one sort or another has gone from over one in five to one in 20.

Motorists in our survey were more likely to have suffered vandalism than theft of, or theft from, their cars, with more than one in five having had their car vandalised in the last three years against 9% suffering some kind of theft. However our survey shows cars that had been stolen were more likely to be damaged when recovered (2008: 70%) than 20 years ago (1988: 52%).

Most motorists take precautions against crime and will always lock doors (97%) and close windows (95%). They are also more security conscious than they were 20 years ago.


  • 86% cover valuables/put them in the glove compartment, against 52% in 1988.
  • 64% avoid parking in high risk areas, against 44% in 1988.
  • 55% use a car alarm, against 13% in 1988.
  • 67% have the benefit of an immobiliser, a security device that was not available to motorists in 1988.

While the number of theft claims has reduced by almost half (49.5%) the total cost of claims has reduced by only a quarter (24.9%)3. This would suggest that more high value cars are being targeted. According to the British Crime Survey, car owners are more concerned about car crime (15%) than burglary (14%) in urban areas, whereas those in rural areas have the same level of concern (8%)2.

Thieves are now focusing their efforts on trying to steal the keys either from owners' houses or from people when they are actually in their cars.

The Car Theft Index5 clearly shows that the older the car, the more likely it is to be stolen. The average car first registered between 1991 and 1993 is seven times more likely to be stolen (22 thefts per 1,000 registered) than a car registered between 2003 and 2005 (three thefts per 1,000 registered).

Percentage of people who have experienced any of the following in the last 3 years.

  • Theft of car 2%
  • Theft from car - radio/CD/DVD player 5%
  • Theft from car - other items 6%
  • Vandalism towards car 21%

We will have more alternatives using battery and electricity. Some car manufacturers will hold back this development for as long as possible, until they are forced to react by increasing prices of oil and production. The winners will be the ones that introduce these solutions quickly.

Ruth, motorist from London

Predictions over the last 20 years

Improved reliability