Car theft watchdog axed from today: Why all motorists could pay the price


A national taskforce that has driven down vehicle thefts over two decades is being disbanded from today – just as car crime is taking a sinister turn.



You might not see this announcement on the TV news tonight, but you could end up seeing the results of the decision.

The National Motor Vehicle Theft Reduction Council – a taskforce that brought police together from across state lines to help crush car crime for the past 22 years – is being disbanded from today.


The not-for-profit organisation combined information from insurance claims and police investigations to detect and deter patterns of behaviour – as well as help catch their fair share of car crooks.

While the taskforce helped cut car theft by 60 per cent over 22 years, the number of cars stolen has increased in four of the previous five financial years (2016 to 2020).

And, authorities warn, car theft is now more closely linked to serious crimes than ever before – such as home invasions or drive-by shootings – as modern vehicles become harder to steal.


Tragically, one of the biggest weapons police have against car crime will be taken away from midnight tonight.

The taskforce is being disbanded because the insurance industry – which was the largest financial contributor to the program – decided to save money.

Instead, as car theft increases, insurance companies will simply put up the price of car insurance premiums to cover the cost of any extra claims. And that means all motorists will pay.

Sadly we learned about the demise of the National Motor Vehicle Theft Reduction Council after the decision had been made, and after it was too late to reverse.

Just last night on the Channel Nine TV news in Sydney there was a report about police busting a car theft ring that used young offenders to steal vehicles to order – and then store them – to be used in more serious crimes.

Notably, the latest bout of drive-by shootings and turf wars in the drug scene have stolen cars at the centre of their operation.

Now, thanks to the disbanding of the theft reduction agency, there is a greater risk of the bad guys getting away with murder.


As Drive reported recently, while the number of cars stolen and never recovered (the ones suspected of being stolen by organised crime groups) has declined from about 15,000 per year in 2001 to about 9500 per year today, professional thefts now account for a greater proportion of stolen cars – and include a larger number of newer and more expensive vehicles.

Which brings us back to the original point. You may not see the demise of the National Motor Vehicle Theft Reduction Council on the TV news tonight, but remember this story the next time you see a bulletin about crime gangs using high-powered stolen cars to make their getaway.

Sadly, this is going to cost all motorists in the long run.

If you want to learn more about the National Motor Vehicle Theft Reduction Council and understand what we’ll be missing out from midnight tonight – and how Australian car crime got to this point – read our special investigation here.

Joshua Dowling has been a motoring journalist for more than 20 years, spending most of that time working for The Sydney Morning Herald (as motoring editor and one of the early members of the Drive team) and News Corp Australia. He joined CarAdvice / Drive in late 2018, and has been a World Car of the Year judge for 10 years.

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