Insurance companies are footing a bill of at least £450m for stolen vehicles that are never recovered by police forces.
The Asset Protection Unit (APU) has revealed the figure after it submitting a Freedom of Information request to UK police forces. Data from 43 of the 45 UK police forces has indicated that around 700,000 vehicles were stolen in England in the years 2009-2014.
Of this figure an average 49.6% of vehicles are likely to have been recovered, leaving at least two in five unaccounted for. However, in 2013, a quarter of motor theft-related crimes were not followed up by police, suggesting that of the 59,000 vehicles that were lost, around 30,000 would not have been investigated.
APU has said that of this total £450m liability for insurers, around £229m will be the result of crimes that were not even investigated.
Neil Thomas, Head of Investigative Services at APU commented: “It makes for uncomfortable reading that the pressure on police budgets and resources has impacted on their capacity to pursue vehicle theft.
“Removing the reassurance of a police presence when a vehicle is stolen sends out the wrong message that these crimes will be tolerated.
“It is also difficult for those businesses with limited or no knowledge of police procedures to understand why they may have to report a crime in the police area of their Head Office when the vehicle was physically stolen from another part of the country for example.
“Most investigators recognise that the window of opportunity to gather evidence following a theft is narrow. If the crime is not investigated immediately, opportunities to secure evidence are lost.
Thomas said that this meant that insurers would be picking up the bill for the vehicles that are not recovered, simply because the resource was not available to investigate the crime.
However, he said that the cost of the thefts was likely to be higher still, as many vehicles will be found damaged or burnt out.
“Naturally, this cost will be passed on to the law-abiding motorists through their insurance premium. Those who lose their car to theft also stand to make a large financial loss through the cost of making a claim.
“This is further evidence that there needs to be greater cooperation between police, insurance firms, law enforcement agencies and private companies if motorists and businesses are to be protected from the threat of vehicle theft,” he added.