According to the Office for National Statistics, there were 383,723 reported vehicle offences in the year ending June 2013. That figure includes 77,583 thefts, 21,935 'interferences' - i.e. vandalism or stripping out of parts - and 284,205 instances of theft from a vehicle. While those numbers are said to be lower than in previous years, they are still extremely significant and it's not just the financial aspect of car theft that impacts the victims. The true cost of car theft runs far deeper.
When a crime is committed against you, it's natural that you will feel a range of emotions. Shock, upset, anger and fear, to name but a few. It's not simply the fact that your car has been taken, but that you were targeted; that someone saw your car and maybe observed your movements over a few days in order to pick an opportune moment to steal the vehicle. This is a horrible realisation that can also have an impact on children, leaving them frightened that the house might be next.
Car theft isn't just about the actual vehicle, of course. Most people - whether sensibly or not - keep personal belongings in their cars that hold sentimental or practical value. It might be a rare CD boxset, an expensive pair of trainers, a personalised numberplate or something made by the children. It matters not what it is, only that it's unlikely to be recovered.
Some people might be completely cut off without their car. Those that live in the middle of the countryside, far from any neighbours or local shops, for example. Or those who own a specially-modified car, the like of which is not easy to replace and without which they are unable to leave the house. This can lead to loneliness and isolation, all due to someone's thoughtless greed.
A car is essential for meeting the demands of modern life; anyone who has been without their vehicle for a day while it's been in the garage will concur. Without your own transport, your activities may be determined by public transport timetables, or when your kind neighbour is making a trip into town. Ultimately, it's incredibly inconvenient to be without a car and may require you to take time off work or appeal to your employer for flexible working, so that you can walk the children to school, etc.
You might be offered a hire car in the meantime, which is great, but it could take a while to become confident behind the wheel of a different model and you might not be able to use it as you would your own, i.e, transporting the family pet dog to the vet, etc.
Naturally where you park your car over night and whether or not it has been fitted with any security devices will affect your annual insurance premium, but what happens if you've had a car stolen?
After contacting the police, you will need to contact your insurer and make a claim. This is an area that worries a lot of people. Will their no claims bonus be affected? Will their subsequent premiums increase? What about paying the excess?
The answer is: ask your insurer before submitting the claim. Most will view car theft as a 'no fault accident' and you shouldn't be penalised, so future premiums should not increase, but this is usually only when you have comprehensive cover. Therefore it's key to check what your policy allows.
Some motorists have been stung when the amount paid out hasn't actually covered the value of the car stolen, hence they've made a financial loss. It's worth having a conversation with your insurer to determine what the short and long-term effects will be - and read the fine print on your policy documents.
Naturally, there will be financial impacts, as mentioned above. This goes beyond the expense associated with losing a car, but extends to the cost of using public transport (buses and trains are not cheap alternatives), forking out for the insurance excess, the possibility of using a less fuel-efficient hire car, or having to pay petrol money to those that provide lifts. While you can cancel your road tax, you might lose out on a few weeks' worth and if you've just paid for an expensive full service, that's money down the drain.
How to minimise your chances of car theft
The ONS data shows that while vehicle theft is still a serious concern, the number of attempted vehicle and vehicle-related thefts in the 12 months to June 2013 actually decreased by 21 per cent year-on-year; for which the ONS says 'a widely-accepted theory is that this is in part due to improvements in vehicle security'.
To minimise the chances of becoming a victim of vehicle theft, it is a good idea to take some security measures. Most cars will be fitted with an alarm and an immobiliser, but for the ultimate in car-security gadgetry, a vehicle tracker is a highly efficient way to prevent thefts. Not only can it aid in the recovery of stolen cars, but some systems can alert owners to unauthorised movement, thereby interrupting attempted thefts.
Where you leave the car is also important; if you have one, park the car in a garage overnight, or in a well-lit car park. Taking these steps can help reduce insurance premiums, too.
As you can see, the effects of car theft are far further reaching than might be first thought, hence it's crucial we all do everything we can to ensure our car is safe and secure.