56 number plates stolen every day
- Credit: PA
An average of 56 number plates are stolen every day from vehicles in England and Wales.
The figure of 20,717 reported cases in 2014 was down by 12% from 23,667 in 2010, according to research by the RAC after 34 police forces responded to Freedom of Information requests by the motoring organisation.
Criminals fix stolen plates to the same model of car to make them appear genuine so it is harder to be caught committing offences such as speeding or leaving fuel forecourts without paying.
Overall total of thefts in England and Wales has fallen since 2010, but seven police forces revealed the problem had got worse.
West Midlands experienced the largest rise at 38%, followed by Derbyshire (34%), North Yorkshire (18%) and South Yorkshire (13%).
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Warwickshire led the way for forces cutting incidents of stolen plates with an 80% reduction, ahead of Cheshire (55%), Surrey (50%) and Thames Valley (46%).
Pete Williams, of the RAC, said: 'Number plate theft is unlikely to happen in isolation, and goes hand in hand with other types of crime, such as motor vehicle theft and burglary. So instances of number plates being stolen are probably symptomatic of a wider issue that police forces are no doubt well aware of.
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'To reduce the chances of becoming a victim, motorists can take steps such as purchasing tamper-resistant number plates or screws, and parking their vehicle in as secure and well-lit location as possible.'
A National Police Chiefs' Council spokesman said: 'The levels of vehicle crime, including theft from motor vehicles, have fallen by nearly three-quarters since 1997.
'The National Vehicle Crime Intelligence Service, UK police forces, the Home Office and vehicle component manufacturers have been working in partnership for some considerable time to prevent and detect such offences.
'Those efforts have clearly paid dividends and we will endeavour to build upon these successes.'
The Metropolitan Police was among the forces which either did not provide information or whose data could not be used for a regional comparison.