According to official Metropolitan Police statistics, Greater London is seeing unprecedented levels of vehicle crime. Unfortunately, these figures continue to grow year-on-year.
Vehicle crime includes theft or taking of a vehicle, aggravated vehicle taking, interference with a motor vehicle, and theft of items from vehicles.
Across the whole of London, cases of theft or taking of a motor vehicle have grown by a worrying 55% over the last 5 years, while aggravated vehicle taking incidents are up by 37%. Total vehicle crime has risen by 26% in the last half decade.
While total vehicle crime in Greater London has grown by 37% between 2014-18, the month of December has seen this figure grow by a massive 50% over the same period.
December is a particularly bad month for vehicle theft, with monthly incidents up by 61% over the last 5 years.
The build up to the festive period is one of the busiest times of year – it is also one of the most stressful for many, both financially and in terms of lifestyle.
The busier and more rushed people are, the more likely they are to forget the basics, such as not leaving valuables or cash on display, locking up properly, closing windows and sunroofs, and choosing safe and secure places to park up.
The financial strain of the festive period may also contribute to an increased number of break-in or theft attempts.
The heat map above shows each London district by 5-year increase in vehicle crime.
Greater London has seen a significant increase in December vehicle crime in almost every district, but which areas are seeing the greatest increase?
Tip: you can move this table side to side on mobile devices if required.
|District||2017-18 Change||5 Year Change|
|Barking & Dagenham||-14%||23%|
|Hammersmith & Fulham||-40%||31%|
|Kensington & Chelsea||-5%||59%|
|Kingston upon Thames||17%||52%|
|Richmond upon Thames||-1%||51%|
Within the last 5 years, the most significant increases in December vehicle crime have been in Hounslow (+107%), Lewisham (+99%) and Greenwich (+80%).
At the opposite end of the scale, Lambeth (+6%), Southwark (+4%) and Waltham Forest (+3%) have seen very little change over the last 5 years.
There are no districts of London that have seen a reduction in vehicle crime over the last half decade.
Looking more recently, there is a more diverse range of results, with some districts showing significant increases in vehicle crime, while others have seen rates reduced.
Hammersmith & Fulham (-40%) has seen a significant improvement in the number of vehicle crimes reported, while Wandsworth (-24%) and Hillingdon (-22%) have also seen rates drop.
Interestingly, despite improving between 2017/18, Hillingdon has seen December vehicle crime rates increase by 66% over the last 5 years. The worst hit areas between 2017/18 have been Southwark (+68%), Barnet (+64%) and Bexley (+52%), with each experiencing a concerning spike in December vehicle crime.
Aggravated vehicle taking is a serious offence which combines the taking of a vehicle without the owner’s permission with dangerous driving that results in injury or damage to the vehicle or other property.
The Aggravated Vehicle Taking Act of 1992 was introduced in the UK to try and tackle the problem of joyriding.
Aggravated vehicle taking is nonetheless a growing problem, with a worrying upward trend in December incident reports. There were 389 reported incidents of aggravated vehicle taking in December 2010, compared with 930 reported in December 2018. The recent December peak of 1066 reported cases was in 2017.
Vehicle crime in December is on the rise in London, which is something we should all be wary of. There are, however, plenty of measures vehicle owners can take to safeguard their cars, vans or motorbikes all year round.
There are certain things which can make your vehicle more attractive to thieves, whether they are looking to steal your car or its contents.
This is an obvious one, but one that may be forgotten about, especially when the owner is in a rush. Unlocked cars are obviously easier to steal, but valuables stored in the glove compartment or other areas, even if out of sight, are easy pickings for opportunistic thieves.
Wherever possible, you should avoid parking in dark or secluded areas. Opportunistic thieves are more likely to try their luck with a car that is out of sight or away from built up areas.
If a secure car park is not available, the best places to park are well illuminated and have plenty of people nearby to put off thieves.
When in slow moving traffic, it is advisable to lock your door and give adequate distance between yourself and the car in front of you. The Met Police states: “If your vehicle is bumped from behind, wait to pull over – somewhere safe and preferably where there are people. After all, you don’t know the person who has collided with you; they could well be hijackers.”
Modern cars are significantly more difficult to steal than older varieties; however, there is still a significant risk of theft if your keys are stolen. By keeping your keys safe, you greatly reduce the chances of your car being stolen, as the theft would require significantly more effort. Car keys should be stored out of site and away from your front door.
Most modern cars have automated or remote locking. When locking your door remotely, it is sensible to double check that the locking has engaged correctly.
Manually try your door once you have pressed the “lock”’ button on your key to ensure it is locked before moving away from the vehicle.
It goes without saying that valuables should never be left on display in your vehicle, especially higher value items such as sat-navs or mobile phones. This should also extend to other items too, such as shopping bags or satchels.
The contents may not be clear, but it may still be enough for a thief to try and break in. If in doubt, remove your items from the car, or leave in the boot where they cannot be seen.
Steering wheel locks are a tried and tested way to put off car thieves. While they are not guaranteed to prevent a car from being stolen (it is possible for them to be dismantled), they certainly provide an excellent deterrent for would-be car thieves. An opportunistic thief is much less likely to try their luck with a car with a steering wheel lock fitted.
Vehicle tracking systems allow you to locate your vehicle if it goes missing. These commonly use GPS technology to help the authorities track down a stolen vehicle.
These tracking devices vary in price and complexity, while some cars come with such devices pre-fitted. The presence of a tracking system can sometimes help lower insurance premiums due to the added layer of security they offer.
We hope this guide has been helpful to you. Remember, if you or anyone you know has any concerns regarding the security of their vehicle over Christmas (or any other time of year), be sure to contact your local police department for assistance and advice. You can never take vehicle security too seriously.