Car theft increases in Victoria: Where motor vehicles are stolen from most


Posted February 02, 2024

Where are cars most often stolen from?

Data from the CSA is sourced from Victoria Police and breaks down the location of motor vehicle theft into three main categories: residential, community and ‘other’.

Residential locations such as houses, apartments and hotels were the locations where almost half of all vehicles were stolen in 2023 (approximately 47 per cent) with a total of 8,976 thefts reported.

Neighbourhood Watch Victoria CEO Bambi Gordon says this result is unsurprising. “I believe it is because these are the locations that cars are at night – few prying eyes, less likely to hear an engine starting up,” she says. “More cars are stolen at nighttime than during the day.”

Community locations are the next most likely place for a vehicle to be reported stolen from, with 7,533 reports in 2023 – 39.5 per cent of all motor vehicle thefts in 2023. These locations include parks, streets, hospitals, car parks, schools, public transport locations and religious buildings.

Retail and business locations like shopping centres, offices, service stations, cinemas and factories reported the least number of vehicle thefts for 2023, with 2,564 thefts recorded.


white ute parked in Australian driveway

Vehicles are most often stolen from driveways.

Residential vehicle theft locations

One of the most common locations for vehicles to be stolen from is one of the places you should feel your vehicle is safest.

Houses were by far the most common residential location for motor theft in 2023, with 4,438 vehicles stolen. The next most common residential location was apartments, units and flats with 513 recorded thefts. Vehicles were also stolen from farmhouses 68 times in 2023, demonstrating the importance of security on farms. Council housing reported a further 17 motor vehicle thefts, caravans or mobile homes 10 thefts, and bungalows seven thefts.

Where specific location data for the residential location was provided, driveways and carports were one of the most common specific locations vehicles were stolen from, with 2,042 vehicles stolen in 2023. Multi-dwelling carparks (496 thefts), front yards (441), garages (347), sheds (167) and backyards (164) were also commonly recorded theft locations.

There are steps you can take to minimise the risk of vehicle theft at home, Gordon says, including reducing the potential for opportunistic crimes. “Parking in a locked garage or at least behind a locked gate takes away the opportunity for an offender to quickly jump into and steal the car,” she says.

Other ways to reduce at-home vehicle theft include installing sensor lights and security cameras, ensuring garage access points are highly visible, and never letting an unfamiliar car follow you into a communal garage.


cars parked on city street

Cars parked on the street are at high risk of motor vehicle theft, but there are ways to minimise the danger. Image: Getty


Common car theft locations in the community

While community car thefts overall might be less common than residential, there’s one specific location that records more vehicle thefts than even houses.

In 2023, 5,503 vehicles were reported as being stolen from the street or footpath, making up the overwhelming majority of vehicle thefts recorded in community locations. The latest figures represent the highest number of motor thefts recorded on the street since 2017.

Data suggests that the risk is alleviated slightly by parking in a dedicated carpark, with single-level carparks reported 1,085 thefts and multi-level carparks reporting 249 thefts in 2023. Railway carparks recorded a further 199 car thefts.

Open spaces were another notch safer, such as parklands (82 thefts), vacant blocks (32) or beach carparks (10).

Education grounds (71 thefts), hospitals (21) and churches (nine) also reported several thefts. Interestingly, one theft was reported as occurring from a police station.

Gordon recommends some simple precautions that can further reduce your risk. “Remove the temptation of valuables being in sight,” she says. “Ensure that number plates have one-way screws fitted – so that the offender can see that if they steal the car, they are going to have a challenge to swap the plates. Fit data dots or something similar to be able to track your car if it is stolen.”


graphic with tips to minimise car theft

Follow these tips to help minimise your chances of being a victim of car theft. Image: RACV

Other common locations for car theft

'Other' locations experienced a drop in motor vehicle thefts over 2021 and 2022, but increased again in 2023.

When it comes to thefts within the ‘other’ category (largely retail and business), retail businesses (1,081 thefts) and manufacturing plants (404) are the most likely locations for motor vehicle thefts to occur. Recreational facilities like gyms, cinemas and bars reported 254 car thefts in 2023, while construction sites experienced 103 car thefts.

Warehousing or storage facilities (251 thefts), offices (180) and agricultural areas (127) were some other common motor theft locations in 2023.

Financial locations like banks and credit societies reported the lowest number of thefts, with only four motor vehicles stolen in 2023.


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