VEHICLE thefts in Wiltshire have risen by eight per cent in the last three years, new figures show.

The RAC, which obtained the data through Freedom of Information requests to police forces across the country, believes the rise can be put down to thieves bypassing modern vehicle security systems.

In 2013, there was a total of 551 vehicle thefts in the county but this number climbed to 593 in 2016 – a rise of eight per cent.

The national figure is also on the rise as responses from 40 forces revealed 85,688 vehicles were stolen last year, up 30 per cent from 65,783 in 2013.

RAC Insurance director Mark Godfrey said: “Unfortunately, these figures show a very unwelcome rise in the theft of vehicles from much lower numbers in 2013. Technology advances in immobilisers, keys and car alarms had caused the number of vehicle thefts to decrease significantly from more than 300,000 in 2002*** but sadly they have now increased after bottoming out in 2013 and 2014.

“We fear thieves are now becoming more and more well equipped with technology capable of defeating car manufacturers’ anti-theft systems. This is bad news for motorists as it has the effect of causing insurance premiums to rise at a time when they are already being pushed up by a variety of factors, not least the recent change to the discount rate for life-changing personal injury compensation claims and the rises in insurance premium tax."

Neighbouring forces Avon & Somerset saw a 56 per cent rise whereas Thames Valley Police saw vehicle theft reports increase by 26 per cent.

The RAC hopes the shocking figures encourage people to take certain steps to reduce the likelihood of their vehicle being stolen, for example parking in well-lit areas, not leaving anything valuable on view inside and never leaving the keys in the ignition when they’re not in the car - something they say that tends to happen on cold mornings when de-icing vehicles.

Wiltshire Police are backing the RAC's advice.

A spokesman said: “Please make sure your vehicle is secure when leaving it and remove any valuables on show.

“When leaving your vehicle on a drive or garage at home – make sure you keep all keys out of sight and away from the letterbox so would be thieves cannot reach through and take them.

“Consider fitting an alarm or immobiliser to your vehicle if it doesn’t already have one.”