Vehicle Crime


There are 4 separate offences which are recorded as vehicle crime by the Police.  

Theft or unauthorised taking of motor vehicle

Where the vehicle is taken without the consent of the owner or other lawful authority; this includes incidents where there is intent to permanently deprive the owner or where intent is not evident, typically including ‘joyriding’ where the car is later recovered.

Aggravated vehicle taking

Where a vehicle once taken is known to have been driven dangerously, damaged or caused an accident.

Theft from a vehicle

Targeting property in or on the vehicle (this includes attempts).

Interfering with a motor vehicle

Includes crimes where, whilst damage has been caused to the vehicle as part of an attempt to steal either the vehicle or its contents or take the vehicle without consent, the specific intent of the offender is not obvious.

For example, a car door may be damaged, which shows an attempt was made to open it, but it cannot be determined if the intent was to steal the car or some contents within it. 

Crime Rates and Trends 


The vehicle crime rate in Essex (Red Line) has been consistently higher than the average National rate, over this 3 year period.




The average crime rate in Essex 0.6, is higher than the average National rate of 0.55. 


Over the 3 year period to May 2015 the number of recorded vehicle crimes have fallen by 12.14% compared to a national fall of 7.51%. However, the first 5 months has seen a significant rise, compared to the national figures. 




 Theft of cars and light commercial vehicles


Since the introduction of immobilisers in all new cars, the number of car thefts have been reducing.

In 1991 the figure was 347,000 by 2011 this had dropped to 95,681. However the proportion of vehicles never returned to their owners is rising.

Figures reveal that only 41% of stolen vehicles were recovered in 2011 compared to 70% in 2002. In 2011 alone, 65,000 British-registered vehicles worth £300 million were stolen and never recovered. The main targets being high end cars from Audi, BMW and Land Rover.

The vast majority are spirited away by organised gangs. They are run like businesses with almost professional infrastructure They employ the best methods of obtaining cars and the best ways of disposing of them. They have a virtual 'export business’, complete with documentation for stolen cars, and they have the shipping all lined up in advance. They can change number plates and now even have methods of re-registering cars in countries such as Slovakia and Romania.

Many, once stolen, leave the UK within days to feed an insatiable appetite for vehicles in Africa, Cyprus, Dubai and the Far East, Spain, Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Pakistan.

Nearly all vehicle theft today requires access to a key, this may be obtained by house burglary, fishing through letter boxes, dipping into bags and pockets or taking an opportunity when a vehicle is left unattended with the ignition keys. It is also possible to clone keys through the cars diagnostics.

This was a problem for pre 2011 BMW's.

Vehicles are also stolen for their parts for use in illegal"chop shops" or just their scrap value. They may also be taken for joy riding or for other criminal activity, if an opportunity presents itself. 


Level of vehicle crime 

Reducing theft of vehicles 


Find a safe Car Park

Theft of Motorcycles 


It is a fact that more motorcycles and scooters are stolen than cars and even less are recovered.

A few simple precautions can help reduce the risk of having your motorcycle or scooter stolen. It takes a matter of seconds for a thief to wheel your bike away, throw it into the back of a van, and be away.


Security Alarms And Immobilisers

Combination  alarms and immobilisers are a good deterrent. Would-be thieves are  often put off by the alarm and unable to ride the bike because the  engine will not start. Look for the devices that offer a low current drain as well as a  comprehensive warranty support.

Mechanical Security

Whatever  you decide to purchase; security chains, disc locks or U bolts, make  sure you always take them with you. It may be bulky and not seem worth  the effort, but it’s not worth the effort of buying one if you are not  going to use it every time you go out.

Try to avoid using the disc lock alone as they can be quickly removed  by thieves and have been known to cause problems for riders who forget  to take them off before riding away.

Always secure your bike to something fixed to avoid the most common  method of theft, which is picking up the bike, chains and all, and  transporting it in another vehicle.

Marking Systems

Thieves  are very often after the bike parts to sell on. Mark as many of the  parts as possible, as you will make the motorcycle less attractive to  thieves, and will have a far better chance of recovery. Many new  motorcycles now come with this type of security system fitted as  standard.












Security At Home

Many  bikes are removed from the owner’s garage. Consider a ground anchor as  this provides good and simple security. You may want to buy a silent  alarm which alerts you if someone attempts to enter your garage.

Don’t leave the garage keys in an obvious place as thieves will break  into your home to retrieve them if they are easily accessible. And  always remember to lock the garage.

Keep all of your keys in a safe and hidden place, well away from  doors, windows and catflaps. This way your keys cannot be seen from  outside and thieves cannot “fish” for keys through openings.

Off Road Motorcycles

Trials, Moto Cross and Enduro bikes are more difficult to trace when stolen, so they attract more interest from thieves.

These bikes are not normally registered with the DVLA but you can register them, and it is free to do so. This means that  both the engine and frame numbers will then show up on both the Police  and DVLA systems. The motorcycle will be issued with a “Q” plate but you do not  have to fit it providing that it remains off-road as intended



Quick security tips

  1. Get a security device, use it and make sure you keep your keys with you.

  2. Always put the steering lock on.

  3. Try to use a designated motorcycle parking place with a stand and security loop.

  4. If you have a garage, fit strong locks and invest in a ground anchor.

  5. Mark the main areas of the motorcycle with either the registration  number or your postcode, and keep a record of what you have marked.

  6. Purchase a good immobilizer, preferably one that is approved by your  insurance company and is either Thatcham or Sold Secure approved.

  7. Cover your motorcycle if at all possible.

  8. Do not leave items such as helmets or other possessions with your bike.

  9. Keep your keys safe and hidden at home.


      Thatcham   Approved products

      SoldSecure  Approved products


 Theft from Vehicles


Theft from vehicles includes items stored within or items on the vehicle. The crime is nearly always opportunist and in many respects is the same as house burglary.

A suitable target needs to be available and to have no suitable guardian.

The simple advice is, empty your car before someone else does!

The following items are of particular interest to the thief so should never be left in your vehicle:

Satellite navigation

MP3 systems

Mobile phones


Wallets/ purses/ credit and debit cards

Cash/ cheque book

Electrical items


Power tools and work equipment

Vehicle registration documents

If your vehicle is left unattended always close the windows and sunroof and make sure the doors are locked. It is relatively easy to buy equipment to jam the electronic locking system so always check with the door handle that it is secure, or use the key to lock the vehicle.



Reducing theft from vehicles


Commercial Vehicles

  • If your vehicle doesn’t have an alarm, get one fitted. Insurance companies will often give a discount for properly installed and approved alarms.

  • Never leave personal documents in the vehicle’s cab.

  • Never leave tools or equipment in your vehicle overnight.

  • Keep your van keys safe while you are working. Never leave them in your vehicle.

  • ‘High clearance’ vehicles are common targets for catalytic converter theft. Mark yours to deter thieves.

  • Security mark all your tools and equipment to make items uniquely identifiable

  • Don't buy cheap, second hand tools from a building site – they may be stolen. If you are suspicious  – tell the police.

  • Keep stops for fuel, food and other goods to a minimum. The fewer stops you need to make (leaving your vehicle unattended) the more secure it will be.

  • Make sure you have fully comprehensive insurance for your vehicle. Thieves will often 'smash and grab' causing damage that is expensive to repair and may take you off the road for several days

Catalytic Converters

The risk of catalytic converter theft, particularly if your car has high ground clearance has been growing. Thieves are targeting catalysts – located in the exhaust system under the vehicle – because of the high value of the precious metals they contain.

On diesel cars, the diesel oxidation catalyst is often integrated with the Diesel Particulate Filter (DPF) these are being stolen for their scrap value too. Precious metals – platinum, palladium and rhodium – are coated onto this ceramic structure as catalysts (a catalyst modifies and increases the rate of a chemical reaction without being consumed itself) for the reactions that 'clean' the exhaust:

The ceramic honeycomb has to undergo a chemical process known as 'carbochlorination' to recover the precious metals it contains – generally abroad in countries such as China, Poland, Canada and Latvia.

Once an unmarked converter has been removed from a vehicle it's quite difficult to match it to that vehicle as there aren't any distinguishing marks.  

Cat. Guards  

Cat. marking 

Number Plates

There are thousands of number plates stolen each year. They are used to facilitate other crimes,

  • disguise stolen vehicles
  • conceal the true identity of vehicles used in criminal activity such as ram-raiding or theft of petrol from garage forecourts
  • sell a stolen vehicle as a legitimate one
  • evade traffic related fines including parking tickets and speeding fines



Theft resistant number plates

 Advice from Essex Police