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Car theft “essentially decriminalised” by police charge rate under 1.5%

Official stats reveal London’s Met Police have a shockingly low charge rate for car theft of just 0.69 per cent

Thief breaking into car

Home Office data has revealed the extent of the neglect police forces apply to car theft crimes, with recent monthly figures showing just 1.43 per cent of car thefts result in any criminal charges.

The figures collated by dash cam supplier Nextbase following a Freedom of Information request, show that from July 2022 to June 2023, the charge rate for vehicle thefts declined steadily from an already poor 2.8 per cent to just 1.43 per cent. Drivers in the capital London saw criminals being charged in just 0.69 per cent of cases where cars were stolen - the Metropolitan Police issued charges in 214 cases last year, out of the 31,200 incidents of car theft that were reported.

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According to information provided by the Home Office, the average charge rate over 12 months for stolen vehicles nationwide was 2.12 per cent across all police forces, leading a spokesperson for Nextbase to suggest the practice of stealing cars “appears to be essentially decriminalised”.

A predictable side-effect of ineffectual policing is that high car crime numbers add increased pressure to already soaring insurance premiums. London was followed by Manchester and West Yorkshire in terms of car theft numbers, and Nextbase points out that these are the same areas where motorists are facing the highest premium prices for insurance. Confused.com data shows Inner London motorists were quoted £1,607 on average for insurance last year, and Mancunians £1,233.

The failure of police when it comes to investigating car crime is generally put down to a lack of evidence. In 98 per cent of car crime cases, police cite “evidential difficulties” or “no suspect identified”. 

Nextbase is urging individual drivers to help out the overstretched police services by fitting its latest iQ dash cam that broadcasts footage to the cloud and alerts you by phone if anyone interferes with your vehicle - much like the smart doorbell on your house.

Head of road safety Bryn Brooker says: "Police across the UK do what they can but are stretched and need your help, especially given the vulnerabilities of some modern cars to relay theft. They need evidence to follow."

In related news, Jaguar Land Rover has revealed it is spending several hundreds of thousand pounds on extra police resources at the UK’s major container ports, saying a lack of border controls incentivises criminals to profit from the export of stolen parts and vehicles.

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Current affairs and features editor

Chris covers all aspects of motoring life for Auto Express. Over a long career he has contributed news and car reviews to brands such as Autocar, WhatCar?, PistonHeads, Goodwood and The Motor Trader.

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