THE number of car thefts has dropped in North Wales over the last year, despite a rise across England and Wales as a whole.

This national spike has led vehicle manufacturers to demand tighter controls on the "open sale" of equipment used by criminals to steal cars.

Between April 2017 and March 2018, 540 vehicles were stolen, police recorded crime data from the Home Office revealed.

That is a decrease of 6 per cent on one year earlier, when 574 thefts were recorded.

That means, in North Wales, eight vehicles were stolen for every 10,000 residents in the area.

North Wales is bucking the national trend in England and Wales, where the number of vehicles stolen rose by 15 per cent over the last year.

Police and motoring campaigners have said this is probably due to a rise in keyless car thefts.

A spokesman from the Association of British Insurers said that criminals are exploiting the vulnerabilities of the entry system by using pairs of radio transmitters to capture the signal from the vehicle’s fob, among other methods.

He added: "The theft risk will be one of many factors taken into account by insurers when assessing the price of your motor insurance policy.

"In recent years the average cost of motor insurance has been rising – in 2017, the average motor premium paid rose by nine per cent on 2016 to a record high."

Nationally, about 70 per cent of vehicle-related thefts occurred at home and during the evening or night.

The ONS said that 43 per cent of perpetrators entered the vehicle through an unlocked door, while breaking in through car windows has become less common in recent years.

Mike Hawes, chief executive of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, said: "Manufacturers are investing billions in ever more sophisticated security features and software updates on an ongoing basis.

"However, we continue to call for action to stop the open sale of equipment which helps criminals steal cars – equipment which has no legal purpose – and have written to the Home Secretary seeking a meeting to agree how this can be addressed.”

In North Wales there were 70 cases of aggravated robbery - for driving the stolen vehicle dangerously on the road or causing an accident.

Police also recorded 1,262 incidents related to thefts from vehicles, either of personal belongings, radios or other items.

That is an increase of 2.5 per cent from the previous year.

There were 255 crimes where the vehicle was damaged as part of an attempted theft, where the intent of the offender was not obvious.