Vehicle thefts increased 28 per cent in Hawke's Bay last year - and police are solving less than one in eight cases.

Official Information Act figures released to Hawke's Bay Today show the number of recorded vehicle thefts in the Bay increased from 455 in 2014 to 581 last year.

Offenders were caught in 71 of these cases, or 12.2 per cent of the time.

Napier MP and Labour police spokesman Stuart Nash said the resolution rate showed police were underfunded, and were forced to prioritise other areas at the expense of investigating thefts and burglaries.

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"The police themselves, certainly the frontline officers, do a fantastic job. But that thin blue line is really, really stretched.

"We just can't continue like this - when burglaries and car thefts aren't getting solved and the public is losing confidence in the police's ability to do the basics."

Nationwide, the number of recorded vehicle thefts rose to 20,646 last year, a 12 per cent increase on 2014, and a 20 per cent increase since 2012.

"Burglars know they've got a 90 per cent chance of getting away with it. I don't think they rationalise it like that, but that's the reality - they've got a 10 per cent chance of getting caught," Mr Nash said.

The national resolution rate was 11.6 per cent. Thieves got away with taking more than 50 cars a day.

In a written response to Hawke's Bay Today, police acting assistant commissioner Dave Trappitt said low resolution rates for crimes such as burglary and vehicle theft was because cases were "difficult to resolve" and were often reported hours after the crime occurred. He said an increase in vehicle ownership may also be a factor behind the increase in thefts. He said police recognised the impact of vehicle crime on victims and "will continue to prioritise this as appropriate".

AA Insurance (AAI) head of product Aaron Dickinson said thefts had increased nationwide but the number of theft claims received remained stable.

He said less than 1 per cent of vehicles insured by AAI were stolen each year, and the majority of these were cars more than 10 years old.

He said car owners shouldn't assume their vehicle wouldn't be stolen, and to always ensure a car was as difficult as possible to steal.

"Thieves will always go for the easiest, fastest option. So if you make it just a little bit harder for them, then chances are they'll move on to an easier target."

Mr Dickinson said theft has not contributed significantly to insurance premium costs.NZME