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The geography of UK car crime

Smashed car windowMotorists in the parts of Britain with the highest levels of car crime are being urged to take action to keep their vehicles safe and insurance premiums low.

Figures just released by the Home Office shows that the risk of car crime – predominantly theft from or of vehicles – is strongly linked to higher insurance costs.

Experts say that drivers who improve their cars’ security will not only cut the risk of crime, but also the amount that they have to pay for car insurance.

Where crime is highest

The latest British Crime Survey, which is based on interviews with victims of crime, suggested that vehicle-related theft had risen by 7 per cent in the 12 months to September 2011. But this figure was described by officials as “not statistically significant”, which means it could be due to chance or errors in sampling.

In fact, figures from police forces in England and Wales suggest that this type of crime is actually falling at present.

Nonetheless, the areas where car crime is highest – either as a proportion of overall crime, or when compared to the national average – appears to be strongly linked to higher insurance costs.

Where car crime is highest:
Area Offences per 1,000 people Proportion of total offences
London 13.6 12.8%
West Yorks 11 13%
West Midlands 10.4 13.4%
Gwent 10 12.9%
South Yorks 9.6 12.5%

The table shows that for every 1,000 residents in London during the 12 months to September 2011, there were 13.6 instances of crimes against vehicles. This represented 12.8 per cent of all types of crime in the city.

Unsurprisingly, typical annual comprehensive insurance premiums in London are among the highest in the UK, at £1,056 according to the latest Watson Car Price Index. The national average is £844.

In West Yorkshire, which has the second-highest rate of car crime in England and Wales, average premiums have also risen sharply in recent years.

In Bradford, for example, the average premium is now £1,435 – although there are thought to be other factors involved in the city such as a high rate of uninsured driving and fraudulent claims.

Where car crime is lowest :
Area Offences per 1,000 people Proportion of total offences:
Dyfed-Powys 2.4 5.7%
Cumbria 3.2 6.1%
Norfolk 3.9 7.8%


In areas with particularly low rates of car crime, insurance premiums are also low. The Dyfed-Powys police area had just 2.4 offences against vehicles per 1,000 residents. In the Central and North Wales region as a whole, the typical insurance premium was £684, well below the UK average.
In Carlisle, the largest town in Cumbria, the average policy costs £639, and in Norwich, the county town of Norfolk, it is £579.

Keep your vehicle safe

In areas where car crime is higher, introducing better security measures on your vehicle is likely to have a greater impact on premiums.

Gareth Kloet, Head of Car Insurance at, says: “We urge drivers to ensure they keep their vehicles as safe as possible, and don’t provide any incentives for thieves.”

“We want to make drivers aware that vehicle-related crime can cause their insurance premiums to increase. So keeping your vehicle secure will not only cut the risk of crime, but also ensures that you don’t see a hike in the cost of cover.”

Bear in mind also that insurers will have base their view of the risk of crime on individual postcodes rather than cities or regions – so in some parts of London, for example, the risk may be viewed as low, and some parts of Norwich, say, may have a higher incidence of offences.

Follow these tips to cut the risk of crime:

  • Park in a safe place. If you can keep your car in a garage or on a driveway, so much the better. If it is on the street, pick a well-lit location if possible.
  • Fit an immobiliser and tracking device – but make sure it is from a manufacturer recognised by your insurer.
  • Don’t leave valuables such as mobile phones or sat nav devices on display.
  • Keep your car keys safe at home: technological developments mean that it is now much more difficult to steal a car without its keys. This has led criminals to focus their attention on stealing keys from properties, often using letterbox-fishing techniques.

Remember, you should always tell your insurer as soon as you improve security measures rather than waiting for your renewal date. For example, if you start keeping your car in a garage rather than on the street, you may be entitled to a rebate on your current premium, as well as lower costs in the future.


Chris Torney

Chris Torney

Chris is the former personal finance editor at the Daily Express. He's been a journalist for more than 10 years and contributes to a wide range of finance and business titles.Read more from Chris

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