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Vehicle crime epidemic: 140,000 car and bike thefts unsolved last year

May 3, 2022 11:47 PM


  • New figures reveal 77,300 car thefts and 63,500 bike thefts went unsolved last year

  • Only 3.9% of car thefts lead to someone being charged, down from 6.8% five years ago

  • Conservatives accused of allowing criminals to steal vehicles on "an industrial scale"

Shocking new figures have revealed a "vehicle crime epidemic," with over 140,000 car and bike thefts going unsolved by police last year.

More than three quarters of car theft cases (77,318) and nine in ten bike thefts (63,481) were closed without a suspect being identified.

The Liberal Democrats said the figures showed the Conservatives were soft on crime and are letting criminals get away with stealing vehicles on an "industrial scale." The party is calling for more investment in community policing, ahead of the local elections on Thursday.

The figures also show a dramatic fall in the proportion of vehicle theft cases resulting in criminals being charged. Only 1.8% of bicycle thefts in 2021 led to someone being charged, down from 2.5% in 2017. Meanwhile just 3.9% of car thefts led to someone being charged, down from 6.8% five years ago.

The analysis of new Home Office statistics by the Liberal Democrats finds that over the past five years, a total of 806,288 vehicle theft cases have been closed by the police without a suspect being identified.

West Midlands Police and the Metropolitan Police were the worst forces for solving car thefts, with 89% of cases unsolved last year. The two forces were joined by Sussex Police for the highest rate of unsolved bike thefts, at 95%.

Liberal Democrat Home Affairs Spokesperson Alistair Carmichael said:

"These shocking figures show criminals are getting away with stealing cars and bikes on an industrial scale. It is a vehicle theft epidemic that is blighting communities around the country.

"It shows the Conservatives are soft on crime and soft on criminals.

"The Liberal Democrats are calling for a return to proper community policing, where officers are visible, trusted and focused on cutting crime. The Government should give forces the resources they need to make sure that every crime is investigated.

"We must reverse years of Conservative neglect that have made our communities less safe and let far too many criminals get away with it."


Liberal Democrat analysis of outcomes recorded for theft of a motor vehicle and bicycle theft offences, by police force for each of the last 5 years (2017-2021), is available here.

The Liberal Democrats are urging a return to community policing, with a three-point plan to crack down on crime and anti-social behaviour and reverse years of Conservative neglect:

  • Restore proper community policing, where officers are more visible, trusted and known personally to local people.

  • Reverse Conservative cuts to youth services by investing an extra £500 million a year via a ring-fenced fund to Local Authorities

  • Scrap Police and Crime Commissioners and use the £50 million savings to invest in frontline policing and solving crimes.