New research has found that a vehicle break-in occurred every 79 seconds across the UK last year – meaning 1,112 had something stolen from their car every day.
With 405,872 cases of vehicle thefts reported in the last year, many drivers will be targeted by thieves looking to take advantage of homes left vacant over the bank holiday weekend – especially if they’ve left their car by the side of the street while away.
The research, provided by A-Plan Insurance, analysed the latest ONS police-recorded vehicle crime figures across England and Wales to establish the frequency of car break-ins over the last 12 months – and identify the areas most vulnerable to thieves this summer.
Despite vehicle-related thefts dropping by 18% from last year, it carries the second-highest likelihood of victimisation, meaning it’s one of the most common crimes experienced by Brits. This includes both thefts of and thefts from a motor vehicle.
While an estimated five million Brits take a holiday across the channel by car each summer, many leave their vehicle at home while they go away – including multi-car households.
This exposes them to opportunistic thieves looking to steal expensive items from unmonitored vehicles or those looking to steal and sell a vehicle for personal gain.
Even if a vehicle isn’t taken entirely, a break-in can cause even more disruption than the hassle of reporting and replacing stolen items, as the cost of repairing any damage can increase your insurance premiums due to providers viewing you as an increased risk.
Given car insurance renewal costs have recently risen by as much as 70%, according to Trustpilot reviews for providers, many will be keen to avoid making a claim.
The research shows that some areas are more susceptible to car break-ins than others, with Birmingham reporting the most incidents, with 8,180 thefts from a car over the last year. This means drivers in the city saw a car break-in almost once every hour (64 minutes).
Leeds is also among the most at-risk cities, with 3,553 thefts reported, or one every two hours and a half. Bristol saw a car break-in once every two hours and 37 minutes.
Cities that reported the most car break-ins over the last year
The research suggests these areas will need to be particularly cautious this month, as the latest Home Office figures show that vulnerable cities see the rate of break-ins increase by almost a fifth (19%) from mid-July to late August compared to the rest of the year.
Some cities saw an even bigger increase, such as Coventry, which saw cases rise by 34% during the school holidays last year, and Peterborough, with cases rising by 27%.
However, other areas see decreased break-ins over the summer holidays, including Cornwall, with crimes dropping by 22%. This is likely due to thieves being deterred by an influx of holidaymakers, making it harder for them to determine which homes are vacant.
Even if you’re only heading off for a day trip, the data shows that you need to be cautious, as break-ins are almost as likely to occur during daylight as at night (42% day to 54% night).
According to Catherine Grayson, car insurance expert at A-Plan Insurance, it’s key that anyone going away over the August bank holiday prioritises vehicle security to avoid thieves using the long weekend as an opportunity to break in.
She says: “The summer months provide more opportunity for car thieves, as homeowners leave their vehicle unmonitored when heading away – particularly if they live in a multi-vehicle household. Furthermore, many thieves will see the bank holiday as their last chance to break in before families return home to prepare for the back-to-school rush.
“This is especially true in vulnerable areas like Birmingham, Leeds, and Bristol, as thieves are clearly able to take advantage of unattended vehicles more in these cities. The bank holiday weekend is also associated with many events – such as music festivals and pride events – so more people are away from home than they would normally be.
“Even if your home is situated in a safe area and you’ve never experienced anything like a car break-in before, it’s essential to prioritise vehicle security over this high-risk weekend.”
Catherine offers five top tips to ensure your car is secure before heading away, including:
- Install an anti-theft device. Investing in a quality anti-theft device such as a steering wheel lock makes it much more difficult for thieves to steal your car. You may also get a car insurance discount as your vehicle will be considered low-risk.
- Hide anything valuable. Don’t leave anything valuable in your car generally, but if you have belongings, ensure they’re out of sight. You may want to consider tinted windows to deter thieves who cannot see if there’s anything worth taking.
- Park in a well-lit area. If you have a driveway, ensure your car is parked close to your home and lit well. If you park on the street, you may consider using a designated parking bay in a well-lit car park, preferably with security cameras.
- Install a car alarm. This will deter thieves from following through once they’ve attempted to enter your car. It can also attract attention from passersby or your neighbours if someone attempts to take your vehicle.
- Remember to lock your car. Although it sounds simple, many of us are on autopilot when we get home after a long day and may forget to lock our car. Also, ensure that you keep your keys in a secure place away from your front door or windows.
As well as taking steps to ensure your vehicle is protected, homeowners should also follow tips to make their house secure – including leaving lights on while away, moving outdoor furniture from below any entry points, and asking a neighbour to monitor the home – to reduce the overall risk of being targeted by opportunistic thieves.