BURGLARS in parts of Yorkshire are switching their attentions to vehicles rather than houses as they feel less likely to get a long jail term if caught, the region’s largest police force has revealed.
West Yorkshire Police says thefts from vehicles are a “real problem” as officers have been devoting their attention to bringing down the county’s high burglary rates. In 2013/14 there were 16,448 thefts from vehicles across West Yorkshire, an increase of 2.5 per cent and 407 offences on the previous year.
West Yorkshire was the only force in the region where ‘vehicles offences’, including theft from vehicles and thefts of vehicles, rose last year, according to statistics published yesterday, though crime as a whole fell again across the county.
It saw a two per cent rise in vehicle thefts in the year to December, while South Yorkshire, Humberside and North Yorkshire Police saw falls of between four and ten per cent.
Bosses acknowledged the scale of the issue after police commissioner Mark Burns-Williamson highlighted the fact that West Yorkshire had higher rates of serious acquisitive crime, including theft from a person and theft from a vehicle, than other forces.
In its response, the force said: “It is acknowledged that theft from a vehicle has been a real problem for the force which hasn’t seen the same amount of resources allocated to it due to concentrated efforts to reduce burglary. There is a feeling that some offenders have moved from burglary to theft from a vehicle as sentencing tends to be lighter for such offences.”
Domestic burglaries can attract punishment varying from a community sentence to a six-year jail term, while theft from vehicles result in shorter sentences as the impact on the victim is less.
The force says it has now taken action to tackle the increase, resulting in a 13.2 per cent drop in thefts from vehicles since the start of April. Chief Superintendent Dickie Whitehead said: “We are always alive to the fact that crime trends can quickly change or shift.
“Under Operation Viper we have targeted known offenders and utilised capture cars containing CCTV. We have also implemented new technology, including a piece of software which allows us to quickly search online auction sites for stolen goods.”
Police have also vowed to do more to address bicycle thefts after it emerged that only 7.6 per cent of such offences are solved. It said: “More needs to be done to understand bicycle theft and the low outcome rate, especially with the Tour de France coming to the county this summer.”
According to yesterday’s national statistics the number of criminal offences recorded by police fell for three of Yorkshire’s forces last year. Humberside Police only saw five fewer offences compared with the previous year, though when fraud was excluded crime rose by two per cent.
There was a national rise in shoplifting of six per cent and increases were seen in 34 out of 43 forces across the country, but there were signs of a North-South divide as increases were greater in the North and Midlands.
Separately, the Crime Survey for England and Wales estimated there were 7.5 million crimes against households and resident adults across the country in the previous 12 months, down 15
per cent compared with the previous year and the lowest estimate since the survey began in 1981.
The decrease in police-recorded crime of two per cent nationally was smaller than in previous years, but this has been put
down to improvements in recording in the wake of concerns about the quality of data, that led to the police figures being stripped of their official “gold standard”status by the statistics watchdog.
Police-recorded crime fell by 2.2 per cent in North Yorkshire, giving the county the lowest crime rate in England.
South Yorkshire saw 3,040 fewer crimes, with big drops in criminal damage and drug offences but a 15 per cent rise in robbery.
A 51 per cent rise in sex offences, the biggest in the country, was said to be “a positive indication that victims feel they can report their concerns to the police and other agencies”.