Car Thieves: from Sheffield to London


Back in 2005 the car theft capital of the UK was Sheffield. Now it’s London. West Yorkshire came in at seventh, proving that car theft is not simply restricted to urban and suburban areas, with thieves operating easily in quieter rural areas.

Car thieves in Sheffield back in 2005 were uneducated local lads with links to chop-shops who’d strip down the stolen motors for readies. Nowadays the most prosperous car thieves are using computer technology to bypass key fobs and electronic starters.

More common and garden thieves have switched to targeting keys rather than tackling sophisticated security devices on vehicles. Some gangs around the country are now staging housebreakings in a deliberate attempt to get at car keys. Gangs target Mercedes, BMWs and Porsches parked on the drives of suburban houses from hotspots Nottingham to Barnet in north-west London.

Overall though, car theft in the UK is on a downward trend. There are 36m vehicles on the road in the UK, meaning that 0.2pc of vehicles were stolen last year, down from a rate of 0.74pc a decade ago. Car theft and theft from inside cars is at its lowest level in almost 50 years in a sign that the billions automakers inject each year into increase car security are paying off.

However, there has been an increase in thefts of classic cars in recent years – particularly Minis, Ford Escorts and VW camper vans – as burgeoning interest in vintage vehicles drives up their value. Older cars are also more vulnerable because they are not equipped with the modern security features included in newer models.

Those in rural areas need to be wary of leaving car keys in places they can be got at, or not garaging their expensive cars. But another major increase has been recorded in tractor and farm machinery crime. A rise in the reported theft of farm machinery and equipment across the country – including the theft and attempted theft of dozens of quad bikes in a number of areas, including Fife and Northumberland – is troubling news.

It seems the Sheffield car thieves of the early noughties had to find other areas in which to manifest their naughtiness. As technology and surveillance continues to improve, one wonders as to their career longevity.

Guest Writer Asghar Khan was educated at the University of London and works in the City of London as a bond trader. He grew up in Coventry and lives with his family in East London.