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The UK has the second largest number of vehicles reported as stolen in Europe and as a result is one of the biggest contributors to the European stolen car pool.

“The UK appears to be a popular target for car thieves, and we know that this is partially due to the high quality cars in the UK and also the global market for right-hand drive vehicles,” said Head of AVCIS, Detective Chief Inspector, Mark Hooper.

“However, car crime is decreasing and although the UK features in the top three countries worst hit in Europe, we are currently experiencing the lowest levels of vehicle crime rates for many years,” continued DCI Hooper. For example, there were a total of 147,000 vehicles stolen in 2009, compared to approximately 600,000 in 1993. However, there is still plenty of work to be done.

“AVCIS’ vision is to continue to build on this success in order to establish the UK as having the lowest levels of vehicle crime and the highest recovery rates in the EU.”

The top 10 European car crime hotspots are:
1. Italy
2. UK
3. France
4. Spain
5. Czech Republic
6. Greece
7. Sweden
8. Denmark
9. Poland
10. Belgium

These statistics are highlighted as part of AVCIS’ inaugural Car Crime Awareness Week (17 – 23 May). “Car Crime Awareness Week has been established as an annual reminder for motorists to be vigilant in order to prevent becoming a victim of crime,” commented DCI Hooper. “From simple things such as keeping car keys out of sight to more detailed guidelines on what to look for when buying a used car, this week will provide an occasion for all those involved within the sector to offer advice and help motorists reduce theft opportunities.”

AVCIS advises that motorists follow the guidelines below to help prevent vehicles from being targeted:

• Secure your home by locking downstairs doors and windows. Also ensure that conservatories and garages are locked as well as any connecting doors to the house. Side gates and access to the back garden should also be secured

• Burglaries do not only occur when the occupants are asleep or away from home; opportunist thieves will strike while doors are left open, for example while you are unloading your car. Do not leave your keys in your vehicle, in the door or in a place that is immediately visible upon entry to the house

• Consider whether the existing locks on your windows and doors are resistant to being opened with force. If not, seek out more secure replacements

• Offenders sometimes ‘fish’ keys through letterboxes and windows using the so called ‘hook and cane’ method so keep your keys out of sight, away from windows and letterboxes. Also ensure your spare keys are concealed

• Criminals will patrol housing estates to select cars within the district which they deem suitable to steal. If you think you are being followed or if you see a car acting suspiciously, take down the registration number and any details of the vehicle before reporting to your local police

• If you have a garage, use it to store your car whenever possible

• Fit your vehicle with a tracking device that has European coverage, which will greatly increase the chance of its recovery if it is stolen