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New insights into car theft

Car thefts in Western Australia have increased by almost 50 per cent in three years. One car is stolen in Australia every 10 minutes, almost 60,000 per year, with more than 9,000 of those in WA.

The incidence of stolen vehicles results in thousands of hours of police time and resources, with some vehicles never being recovered (CARS, 2013). Furthermore, figures released by WA Police indicate that more than 70% of stolen cars are being taken with the owners keys, with thieves breaking into homes to steal the immobilisers (WAPol, 2013). 

Whilst research has investigated home owner behaviours that facilitate home burglaries (Gately, Fleming, Scott & McGinty, 2013), little is known about the behaviours of vehicle owners that may facilitate car thefts and associated burglary offences in order to gain keys and immobilisers.

Complimenting WA Police's 2014 summer safety campaign, this project aims to gain new insights into car theft through an anonymous online survey.

The research investigates the habits of vehicle owners, the experiences of having a vehicle stolen from or by them, or having possessions stolen from their vehicles.

Whilst filling out the survey will provide useful information from a research perspective, the participant should also be prompted to think about their own behaviour and get tips to ensure that the summer period is safer with their increased knowledge.

Research questions

The aims of this project are to provide a snapshot of vehicle theft behaviours from the perspective of the general public and to provide police with intelligence that will assist them to highlight the simple measures to protect their vehicles and property. 

This project will explore:

  • individual preventative behaviour (keys, locks, windows and possessions kept in vehicle);
  • experiences of having a vehicle stolen;
  • experiences of having possessions stolen from within a vehicle; and
  • experiences of stealing a vehicle or possessions within a vehicle. 

Research methods

The vehicle theft survey has been designed to identify behaviours and decisions exhibited by vehicle owners; identify common mistakes made by vehicle owners; the methods and patterns of vehicle theft; and the financial gain and disposal of stolen goods. 

It will provide a snapshot of information that will inform police and vehicle owners, and will be of interest to the insurance industry. It is a quantitative anonymous online survey with the opportunity to add qualitative comments.  It can be filled out by any vehicle owners over the age of 17 years, anywhere in Australia.


  • Dr Natalie Gately, Chief Investigator
  • Dr David Brooks, Associate Investigator
  • Ms Maggie Plumb, Associate Investigator and Industry Consultant

Industry partners

Western Australian Police


December 2013 - December 2014

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