The thefts of as many as 30,000 vehicles a year, worth £229 million, are not even investigated by police according to new research. Data from 43 of 45 UK police forces from the last six years shows that, of the estimated 117,000 cars a year stolen in the UK, 59,000 are lost entirely and half of these are deemed not worthy of police investigation.
The hardest hit are businesses, because police often classify the taking of fleet or courtesy cars a ‘civil crime’ and will not automatically open a case if a car is thought to have gone missing.
Last year, an HMIC Report revealed that, on average, a quarter of vehicle theft-related crimes in 2013 were not attended to by police.
The new research, by Accident Exchange and its motor fraud investigation team, APU, found that an estimated 700,000 theft-related car crimes took place between 2009 and 2014.
And, based on BCA’s average used car value, APU estimates a total monetary loss of £450mfor all vehicles not recovered and of this £229m for those that were not investigated at all.
Neil Thomas, APU’s Director of Investigative Services, said: “If a vehicle owned by a business rather than an individual – such as a fleet vehicle or garage courtesy car – goes missing, frequently the police tend to consider it a civil crime because the business has effectively allowed someone the use of that car.
“Increasing pressure on police forces in the form of budget cuts and overstretched resources means not enough time can be dedicated to the investigation and retrieval of stolen vehicles.
“But it isn’t just companies that are affected by the findings of our study – a proportion of those thefts not looked into will be private car owners too.”
“The monetary value of the lost vehicles can only be described as the tip of the iceberg, as many recovered vehicles are found damaged or burnt out and subsequently written off. In reality, the loss figure is likely to be higher still.
APU submitted Freedom of Information requests to all 44 police forces in the UK but found that part of the problem is that the way vehicle theft data is compiled is entirely arbitrary, with each force recording different information in different formats.
Mr Thomas continued: “This is further evidence that we need Police, insurance firms, law enforcement agencies and private companies to join the dots and collaborate if we are going to truly take the fight to car thieves.”
APU is a bespoke, anti-fraud unit which specialises in motor fraud and works with police forces across the UK as well as international crime-fighting organisations, including the NCA and NaVCIS. Stolen vehicle recovery and false insurance claim prevention undertaken by APU has also been solely responsible for saving approximately £350,000 in the past 12 months.