1. ITV Report

Car Crime: Are you a Target? Tonight

Jonathan Maitland reports on rocketing car crime on ITV at 7.30pm Photo: ITV / Tonight

Last year 85,000 thousand cars were stolen in Britain - that’s a 30 per cent increase in just 3 years.

And it’s the way in which these cars are being stolen - with thieves prepared to go to frightening levels - breaking into our homes at all times of the day and night, just to get their hands on our car keys and ultimately steal our vehicles.

The country is in the middle of a car crime epidemic. Tonight reporter Jonathan Maitland investigates why.

When Lucy and Mark Davies and their two children went to bed one night in June, they could never have imaged the terror they were about to face. Waking up to noises at midnight from outside the house they were horrified to discover a gang of masked men on their driveway.

Lucy and Mark Davies Credit: ITV / Tonight

When you look out your bedroom window and see three guys in balaclavas, you realise its business.

– Mark

We knew there were at least 3 of them and then we realised there were 4, you don’t know if they’ve got weapons or anything like that.

– Lucy

The Thieves stole Mark’s £35,000 Mercedes and a police chase ensued which ended in two of the gang arrested and subsequently sentenced to prison. The other two remain at large.

Police were on the scene within 15 minutes and were able to act fast and get a good result but the reality is that police resources are stretched beyond belief.

Even though it was recovered, Mark's car sustained considerable damage Credit: ITV / Tonight

Last week alone, Greater Manchester Police’s car crime intercept unit dealt with 232 stolen vehicles.

Cars are going all the time, day and night. These people are opportunists, they keep trying, trying, before long they may have come across someone who’s left a window open, left a door unlocked, someone whose keys are on show.

– Sergeant Danny Kabal
Danny Kabal on patrol Credit: ITV / Tonight

But despite thefts being up, funding for police forces is down by £2.3 billion pounds in the last 7 years and the annual crime level has for the first time passed the 5 million mark, a rise of 13% in the past year.

I think car crime’s risen quite simply because there’s a lack of police resources. We’ve got less police officers, more demand, more accountability and the people at the bottom of that pile are police officers and they are stretched to breaking point.

– Ian Hanson, Police Federation

But a local group of residents who experienced a spate of car crime in their area a few months ago in which 252 houses were broken into in just 19 days are fighting back. They’ve launched their own group based on a mobile messaging app - a modern day version of Neighbourhood Watch. It means they can all stay vigilant and keep lines of communication open reporting suspicious activities between them across 100 different roads.

Jane Hamilton and Wendy Green run the group.

You definitely feel safer and you feel like you’ve got someone looking out for you. If you live on your own and you’re hearing someone in your back garden, you know that it might take a few minutes for the police to come, at least you’ve got your neighbours looking out for you, you can send that message out and you’re hoping that Dave from across the road Steve next door and whoever might come out and help you.

– Wendy

With police forces stretched and homeowners threatened, how can you protect your car?

Advice for Car owners:

  • Always be vigilant
  • Always lock your doors, even when in traffic
  • Park in well lit, secure areas
  • If you’ve got a garage, use it
  • Steering locks can act as a deterrent
  • Never leave the engine running with the keys inside
  • Don’t leave any valuables on show
  • Keep your keys out of sight - at home and when you’re out and about

See more this evening at 7.30pm on ITV.

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