Vehicle break-ins surge and experts blame sat nav and mobile phone thefts

A sharp increase in car crime in Britain has been blamed on drivers leaving valuables on display in cars, as police figures reveal 239,920 vehicles were broken into in 2016 – up from 231,222 in 2015. While 26 of 42 police forces reported an increase over the previous year, some constabularies experienced a 76 per cent increase in break-ins compared to 2015.

Officers in the City of London logged the sharpest rise in car break-ins, while 4,043 cars were broken into in Northamptonshire in 2016 – a 41 per cent increase on the previous 12 months.

Laws on sat-nav and phone use in cars explained

The figures – revealed by the RAC after a series of Freedom of Information requests – show forces in Wilthsire, Dyfed-Powys and Lancashire also experienced sharp rises in break ins, while there was a four per cent national rise in 2016 compared to the previous year.

Explaining possible causes behind the increased break ins, Mark Godfrey from the RAC, said it was: “possible that drivers have become more complacent about what items they leave on display, perhaps believing items like sat navs are now so commonplace they’re not of interest to thieves.”

Godard also cited the growing use of mobile phones as sat navs as another potential cause for the increases: “With lots of drivers using their smartphones as sat-navs there is a higher probability of accidentally leaving a phone in a cradle and giving a thief a great opportunity to profit.”

Some police forces experienced drops in break ins though, with 19 per cent fewer reports in Cheshire in 2016 compared to 2015, Cumbria experiencing an 11 per cent decline, and 15 of the 42 responding forces reporting reductions. Break ins were also down in 2016 compared to 2013, when 263,574 vehicles were broken into.

Force 2015 2016 Percentage increase
City of London Police 46 81 76%
Northamptonshire Police 2864 4043 41%
Wiltshire Police 1680 2074 23%
Dyfed-Powys Police 446 549 23%
Lancashire Constabulary 5440 6382 17%
Warwickshire Police 1130 1321 17%
Cambridgeshire Constabulary 3318 3860 16%
Cleveland Police 2112 2444 16%
Bedfordshire Constabulary 3408 3937 16%
Northumbria Police 3933 4375 11%
Totals 231,222 239,920 4%


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