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Car thieves are destroying lives through their actions

By Maxine Ashford | January 26, 2022


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After a home, a car is probably the biggest expense in our lifetime.

Car thieves are destroying lives through their actions

After a home, a car is probably the biggest expense in our lifetime. It gives us our independence as well as helping with the day-to-day practical stuff.

So imagine the distress, frustration and anger caused when someone comes along and tries to steal that possession. And very often stolen vehicles are not recovered until they have been damaged, crashed, sold on or burnt out.

Even with high-end alarm systems, thieves have become more advanced in their tactics and often disarm the cars, so there is little warning to the owner until they discover the vehicle is missing.

We spoke to a Land Rover owner whose pride and joy was stolen not once, but twice within four weeks. And to make matters worse, the same person was responsible.

The victim, who has remained anonymous as the case is currently under police investigation, described the anguish the theft caused him and his family.

“The 2018 Land Rover was fitted with an alarm and parked on our driveway. When it was stolen the first time round, they damaged the vehicle searching for a tracker to be deactivated.

“But just a few weeks later, they stole my car again and this time they crashed it and wrote it off. I couldn’t believe it when I found out the same culprits were responsible.”

He feels the police did not take the crime seriously enough, saying:” We were able to track down the thieves after the first theft by speaking to people in the area. It took us two days to find the vehicle after the first incident, without any genuine police support, despite supplying the names of those people we believed to be responsible.

“It beggars belief that in this day and age there's a reluctance to properly investigate crimes and it is left to the public to essentially retrieve their own property. Imagine how messy and dangerous that could be? Angry people wanting revenge for something taken from them only made more frustrated by a seeming inability to act or offer genuine assistance.”

Being without a car will not only have huge financial implications for our victim, but it has caused upheaval for the entire family.

He explained: “We have two young children - one at nursery and one at primary school. My partner works irregular shifts for the NHS and I work nine-to five in the city centre. It's extremely difficult to plan and go about day-to-day life with only one car. We cannot claim against the thief for a hire car on their insurance or anything like that either.”

And there will be heavy costs for the victim too as there was about £30k outstanding on the vehicle. This could result in a bill of £8,000 landing on his doormat at any time.

Despite catching the car thief, our victim believes the actions are all too little, too late. “Given that the car was crashed and caused substantial damage to what I'm assuming is council property it looks like it is now being investigated and some sort of punishment will be likely - although I'm not confident the punishment will be severe enough to match the crimes,” he said.

Punishments for car theft do vary according to the severity of the offence and other mitigating services.

We looked into figures released by the Ministry of Justice and in 2010 there were 1,382 prosecutions for attempted car thefts or car thefts, of which 812 people were found guilty. The figure dropped to 680 in 2020, of whom 438 were found guilty. This drop is highly likely to be due to the restriction of people’s movements in 2020 due to Covid lockdown.

The average custodial sentence in 2010 was 7.5 months, but in 2020 it had increased to 14.8 months.

In 2010, 13 people served up to one month in prison with just one individual sentenced to five to six years. In contrast, figures for 2020 show four people served one month with three sentenced to between five and six years.

The average fine for any sort of car theft in 2010 was £175. This increased to £228 in 2020.

Finally, the average amount paid in compensation in 2010 was £361 with eight people paying more than £1,000. The average compensation paid out in 2020 was £1,138 and 20 people were ordered to pay in excess of £1,000.

Despite efforts to secure vehicles against would-be thieves, it is a crime that shows no sign of easing up.

According to figures from the Office for National Statistics figures, from April 2010 to March 2011 there were 6,954 reported incidents of aggravated vehicle taking. From April 2020 to March 2021, that figure had dropped to 4,468. The drop in reported incidents would in part be down to the fact most of the country was in Covid lockdown during some of those months.

During the same April 2010 to March 2011 period, there were 99,208 thefts or attempted taking of a motor vehicle cases reported to the police. This dropped to 89,207 during the corresponding dates in 2020 to 2021.

Once again, lockdown restrictions would have impacted on would-be thieves’ movements, so accounting for the reduction in figures.

Finally, from April 2010 to March 2011, there were 313,467 thefts from a vehicle. This dropped to 193,119 during the 2020/21 time scale. However there were changes introduced in 2014 that altered the way this crime was reported. It was often recorded as ‘interfering with a motor vehicle’ if the ‘theft’ motive was not clear.

These statistics are really just numbers though until you yourself fall victim to a car theft. Only then do you realise how much inconvenience, cost, upheaval and heartache it causes.

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