A vehicle is stolen every nine minutes in the UK

By Farsight Security
13 May 2020 12 min read


It has been widely reported that car thefts has surged. Farsight takes a deeper look at what the threats are,  where they are coming from, and how this rise in vehicle crime impacts businesses including motor dealerships car showrooms.

Staggering DVLA figures on car thefts obtained by Rivervale Leasing reveal 56,288 motors were stolen by criminals in 2019, which equates to 154 per day or one every nine minutes. The Association of British Insurers puts the costs of vehicle thefts and thefts from vehicles at a mammoth £376 million per year.

Vehicle theft has surged by an average 21% across the UK over the past three years, according to vehicle innovation firm – AX.  This figure varies wildly depending on the region, with Nottinghamshire and Staffordshire police services reporting an overall rise of vehicle theft in their regions as high as 60% and 54% respectively.

Speculation that car thefts have increased even further during lockdown has been predicted across the news and industry channels. You don’t have to search news media channels too hard to find a stream of reports of stolen vehicles from all across the UK during this period.

For example, Facebook groups like  Stolen Cars UK, CarWatch and Stolen Vehicles UK  put the extent of recent van,  motorbike and car thefts on daily basis into stark reality:

stolen cars facebook

The MailOnline recently published an article warning drivers they face greater risk during lockdown as vehicles are left on driveways like ‘car showrooms’. But how does this spike in vehicle crime affect businesses and in particular – motor dealers and car showrooms?

Vehicle crime impact on businesses

Risk-UK reports that Radius Telematics has seen an increase in the thefts of commercial vehicles and plant since the Coronavirus lockdown. With many offices, factories and construction sites abandoned, thieves appear to be taking full advantage of unattended locations.

For example, the Construction Equipment Association (CEA) has reported a 50% surge in construction site crime rates since the coronavirus lockdown. The construction industry is being urged to tighten security measures to defend sites from opportunistic thieves.

As a leading CCTV remote monitoring station working across many business sectors, we have seen a definite increase in intrusion attempts with the aims of stealing of vehicles or plant equipment like these incidents:

Intruders on building site

Reports of 45% increase in van thefts

Parkers shared data generated by freedom of information requests to British police forces which revealed a 45% increase in van thefts in four years (2015-19) with a staggering 10,000 theft in 2018/19.

Not surprisingly, the Met reported van theft figures for the London region were the highest, but you may be surprised by the next regions:


*full credit to Parkers for the production of the above chart. You can read this full article ‘Van theft up 45% in four years’ here.

Imagine the disruption that 10,000 stolen vans would have caused those business owners, not even taking into account damage and  thefts from vans across the UK in addition to entire vehicles being taken.

How does the increase of vehicle theft attempts impact car showrooms and car dealerships?

A quick scan of the news channels yields a raft of sobering reports on how car thefts and vehicle crime incidents have targeted car dealerships and car showrooms recently:

– Car dealership suffers third theft

– Thieves strike three car dealerships, London police say

– Dealership boss left ‘devastated’ after theft of three cars

Many car showrooms are designed to allow prospective buyers the opportunity to see the cars on open forecourts, which can also attract criminals to do the same. This can make car showrooms vulnerable, especially out of hours or during current closures, to being targeted by opportunists and criminal gangs.

Opportunists or organised criminal activity?



In our blog article entitled ‘Is it time to rethink your business security?’ we explored a recent report published by the Home Office – Crime against businesses that affect one in five businesses. This describes the key cross sector issues that contribute to crimes against businesses in the UK:

1. Anti-social behaviour – which includes opportunistic petty theft, vandalism and criminal damage.

2. Organised crime – organised gangs of criminals

Of course, both of these contribute to the ever-present threats that car showrooms and car dealership forecourts face on a daily basis.

Anti-Social Behaviour and the opportunists

‘Casual thieving’ and opportunistic incidents of criminal damage and vandalism continue to contribute to crimes against car showrooms and dealership forecourt incidents. In fact vandalism of vehicles alone is estimated to cost £2 billion every year.

Organised Criminal Activity

The modern development of vehicle technology has evolved from the ‘joy riding’ of the 90’s into a more organised and targeted activity that will go to extreme lengths.
The below is one of a number of recent of incidents where intruders have tried to smash their way into car dealership premises in broad daylight during lockdown.


car dealership theft

Car Crime is an industry run at scale in the UK

Neil Thomas, director of investigative services at the fleet management company – AX Innovation describes modern car thefts as ‘an industry run at scale’. High-value models are being targeted by criminals who need specific cars to sell or to strip for sale or cloning. They even place their order with an ‘associate’ using an encryption messaging service such as WhatsApp.

car theft surge


The above image is from an incident caught on CCTV by Farsight where these car thieves were taking pictures of vehicles at a car dealership forecourt as they attempted to ‘steal to order,’ moving from car to car to make the right choice –  before police were called in by Farsights’s CCTV operators to arrest them that is!

Organised crime driving vehicle thefts to new levels

AutoCar’s article entitled ‘Why are car thefts still on the rise?’ describes how criminal gangs are increasingly recruiting so called ‘clean skins’ – young people with no criminal records to steal cars. Often these stolen cars are driven to places and left for up to four days to establish whether they have tracking devices fitted.

Clive Wain, head of police liaison at Tracker is quoted as stating that cars are stolen for one of four reasons:
1. For export, often to Eastern Europe
2. To order, for their identity to be changed for resale in the UK
3. For parts, where the vehicle is stripped down in a ‘chop shop’
4. To be used in further crimes.

Police are going to extraordinary lengths to tackle the organised criminal gangs that are driving the ‘vehicle theft industry’. Recently, about 400 police officers from the Met, Essex Police and Transport Police services ran a joint operation with raids across the county as part of an investigation into thefts of cars worth a total of up to £4m.

Shocking black-market value of stolen cars

Motor thieves are stealing some of Britain’s most in-demand cars and selling them on the black market for as little as £1,000, according to AX’s latest investigation. This report reveals the shocking black-market of vehicles once stolen.

This is cited as a typical car thief’s shopping list:

stolen car value

*we give full credit for the above ground-breaking data to Neil Thomas at AX (Accident Exchange) published in this article entitled ‘Shocking value of stolen cars revealed

Theft of car parts

Reselling whole cars is a risky business, even for criminals and it is not just the thefts of whole cars that affect car showrooms. It seems that car parts have become new treasure as manufacturing production lines close due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Opportunistic criminals are targeting vehicles to fill the replacement parts gap, caused by the shutting down of manufacturer supply chains. Police are fighting an increase in the number of ‘chop shops’, where stolen vehicles are stripped for their parts. These parts are then sold on.

Huge increase in catalytic converter thefts in UK


The news channels are filled with reports on catalytic converter thefts:

– Six catalytic converters stolen from cars on garage forecourt
– Car parts stolen from a number of vehicles at Nissan dealership in Loanhead as police hunt crooks

– Meet the new ‘Cat’ burglars

With reports of 1,000 catalytic converters a month being stolen in London alone, it is clear that this type of threat is spiralling out of control. According to the Guardian, the big insurers have reported seeing as much as 600% increase in claims involving stolen catalytic convertors costing on average £1,000 per claim.

This increase has been exacerbated by the soaring value of the metals contained in small quantities inside certain catalytic converters which include platinum, palladium, and rhodium. Rhodium on its own has 4 x the value of gold.

The BBC reported in business news recently that there are 10,000 different catalytic converters, and generally criminals prefer to steal from hybrid vehicles as these have two power sources – fuel and electric. These are less frequently used and cause less corrosion, making them more valuable.

It becomes obvious why brand new, unused catalytic converters parked on display on dealership forecourts would be an attractive prospect to thieves. With the help of a jack and a power hacksaw, gangs can strip the parts from under a parked car in minutes and this type of theft is harder to detect as the criminals are generally hidden from view under cars.

It is thought thieves are making between £300-£500 per converter  which are sold overseas through scrap metal dealers.


It’s not only car and van thefts that are soaring, but motorbike thefts too…



A vehicle crime report published by MCN in 2019 highlights that motorbikes are the most likely vehicle to be stolen. Shockingly, this report showed that in London 1 in every 12 bikes were reported stolen.

The national average of one in 46 bikes reported stolen still means that motorcycles are seven times more likely to be stolen than any other road vehicle.

Detective Chief Inspector Paul Knox of Northumbria police issued the warning after 92 motorcycles were stolen in Newcastle and Gateshead in just eight weeks, prompting ‘Operation Benelli’ – a specialist task force experienced motorcycle crime officers to curb this crimewave in Newcastle and Gateshead. Read the full article from MCN here.

What happens to stolen motorbikes?

Bennetts, a leading bike insurer revealed that cloning stolen motorcycles is still popular with thieves, and they’re more sophisticated than ever before. However, cloning is time-consuming, and organised crime is always in a hurry to turn a profit; a good proportion of bikes therefore are simply stripped down for parts and sold on the black market.


So what are the latest car theft figures that have been revealed?

Read our next blog in the series here:

Optimising motor retail showroom security is crucial

With the threats posed by opportunists and organised crime to motor dealerships and car showroom forecourts, whether part of large automotive retail groups or independents, it is clear that effective security is vital to protecting assets, premises and people.

It is estimated by UHY Hacker Young that the value of inventory that is held by UK car dealerships on the forecourts is as high as £27.3 billion, which demonstrates the significant level of risk that these businesses must mitigate. As such, maintaining and optimising the security of car showrooms and vehicle retail forecourts is a key priority and one that most take very seriously.

Increasingly, the use of CCTV and remote CCTV monitoring station partners is being considered as a crucial measure, as part many security systems and strategies to protect their assets, premises and people.

The use of CCTV and CCTV remote monitoring has many benefits in protected businesses from vehicle crime, such as the potential to proactively deter incidents in real time and to prevent them progressing with a rapid response escalation in contrast to retrospective reflection once the incident has happened and loss/damage has occurred.

Preventative security measures are particularly important as according to the Office for National Statistics, just 40% of stolen vehicles are recovered. Most of these are damaged and 20% written off.

See how remote monitoring with Farsight works:

Speak to the remote monitoring security experts

Farsight has worked across the automotive sector, particularly car dealerships car showrooms, vehicle hire groups and motorcycle dealerships for many years and considers itself as a leading remote security monitoring partner working with businesses large and small.

Our security team would be happy to discuss your security optimisation needs to help you mitigate against vehicle crime, whether you are a security installer or responsible for site security. Simply drop us a line via our contact form, request a call back or give us a call on 0845 371 0101.

Further reading

We have produced several articles and guides that may help you in making important decisions in optimising site security at car showroom site(s) or car dealership forecourt(s).

> Why do you need remote monitoring services?
> 15 factors to consider when considering a remote monitoring partner
> Where to position CCTV cameras in your business
> What are audio warnings and how do they work?
> How lighting can make all the difference
> 20 simple ways to improve your business security

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