London is the capital of Carjacking

  • London has seen 2,663 incidents of aggravated vehicle taking over the past three years – more than two per day
  • Croydon is the London borough with the highest number of aggravated vehicle taking incidents 
  • The research, part of Direct Line’s ‘Truth about Car Theft’ campaign in partnership with University of Huddersfield, uses original insight from convicted car thieves - “There’s a new generation of kids coming out…they tend to not be bothered about using violence”

London is the UK’s aggravated vehicle taking capital, with more than two incidents a day occurring over the past three years (2,663 incidents), reveals new research from Direct Line Motor Insurance1. The capital has seen nine incidents for every 10,000 registered vehicles.

Aggravated vehicle taking refers to a vehicle being taken, but the theft also involved the use of dangerous driving, or when there is damage caused to a person, property, or the car itself during the process2.

Croydon is the London borough that has seen the highest number of aggravated vehicle taking incidents over the past three years, accounting for five per cent (139 incidents) of the London total and 67 per cent higher than average.

Enfield is second with 132 aggravated vehicle takings between 2019 and 2021, followed by Newham (128) and Brent (125).

Table One: Top 10 London boroughs for aggravated vehicle takings, 2019-2021 (total and weighted)

London borough

Total number of aggravated vehicle takings, 2019-2021

Number of aggravated vehicle takings per 10,000 vehicles






















Tower Hamlets









All London boroughs



Source: Direct Line Motor Insurance 2022

The boroughs with the lowest rate of aggravated vehicle taking over the past three years are Kingston upon Thames (30), Kensington and Chelsea (40) and Richmond upon Thames (42).

Direct Line partnered with the University of Huddersfield on its ‘Truth about Car Theft’ campaign, which includes detailed academic research3 amongst prolific car thieves to understand the motive, means and opportunities for vehicle crime, to help motorists reduce the risk of falling victim to these criminals. A convicted car thief interviewed for the study, highlighted the risks facing motorists: “There’s a new generation of kids coming out now where, like I say, some of them, they tend to not be bothered about using violence, to get some of what they need.”

The penalties4 for those convicted of aggravated vehicle taking include a custodial, prison, sentence of up to two years. However, in incidents where an accident occurs resulting in death of another person the sentence can be much more stringent.

Lorraine Price, head of motor insurance at Direct Line, commented: “It is worrying to see the scale of aggravated vehicle taking incidents in London alone. The research will raise questions as to whether the current penalties are sufficient and if more can be done to protect innocent motorists. Our work with the University of Huddersfield aims to learn from the car thieves themselves, to help understand their motivation and what measures are needed to reduce this illegal activity.  

Professor Rachel Armitage, Professor of Criminology at University of Huddersfield, commented: “While conducting our research we were able to gain invaluable insight into deterrents for car criminals. We would encourage all car owners to take measures to keep their vehicle safe and not assume their area is off limits. Simple acts such as not leaving valuables in your car, taking car keys to bed, and folding in wing mirrors could all help make a car look less attractive to criminals.”

While car crime is never the fault of the victim, there are steps motorists can take to help reduce their risk of being targeted, or to help retrieve their vehicle if it is stolen:

  • Trackers: Using a tracker within your car can play a big part in getting your car retrieved
  • Alarms: Use of a motion-sensor alarm in your drive, particularly using a recorded voice, will typically deter a car thief from entering your car
  • Cleanliness: Having a clean car also helps, as a car thief will see a messy car and typically think there is something of value underneath the mess
  • Keys: Take your car keys up to bed with you, do not leave them downstairs. If a car thief can see keys on a table downstairs, they are likely to try and retrieve them to enter your car
  • Lights: Installing a flashing LED light onto the roof of your car can deter car thieves as it makes your vehicle more visible. Parking under a streetlight, or in a well-lit drive way, can also put thieves off
  • Entry/exit noise: For example, having a gravel driveway – noise is a deterrent for car thieves
  • Deterrents: A car behind a gate, lights, or even a dog are the biggest deterrent for car thieves


Notes to Editors

1   Direct Line analysis of Metropolitan Police data on reported incidents of aggravated vehicle taking across the 32 London boroughs (excluding the City of London) between 2019 and 2021

2 Theft Act 1968, section 12A -

3   Armitage, R., Floyd, K., Reeves, C and Roach, J. (2022) Preventing Vehicle Crime. University of Huddersfield

4 Aggravated Vehicle-Taking Act 1992 (

For further information please contact:

Chelsey Wheeler
Deputy Head of News and Issues – DLG

Tel: 01651 832 095

Email: [email protected]

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