More cars are being stolen in the Western Bay of Plenty and police are struggling to solve most cases.

Car thefts in the Western Bay increased 27 per cent last year - and police are solving a lower percentage of cases.

Official Information Act figures released to the Bay of Plenty Times show police resolved 71 of the 417 car thefts reported in 2015. This means 17 per cent of cases - or just over one in every six - resulted in an offender being caught.

Labour's police spokesman Stuart Nash said the resolution rate showed police were under funded, and were forced to prioritise other areas at the expense of investigating thefts and burglaries.


"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."

A Tauranga woman, who would not be identified, said she had her car stolen from a Tauranga park recently. The woman said she was three or four metres away from her car when it "vanished".

"You'd never assume something like that would happen. It was so quick, we didn't see or hear anything or hear the car speeding off," she said. "I'd be surprised if it wasn't something quite professional."

After reporting the theft to police on a Thursday, she and her husband took matters into their own hands and searched for their car, but police didn't contact the victims at all until the following Monday.

"I do understand they've got much more important things to worry about than another stolen car, but the fact that it happened just then, with a police station just down the road ... I didn't hear from anyone that night," she said.

The car had not yet been found.

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 the Bay of Plenty Times, police acting assistant commissioner Dave Trappitt said low resolution rates for crimes such as burglary and vehicle theft were 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 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 AA Insurance 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.

Police theft prevention tips:

* Ensure you keep your car locked, even when parked at home and in the garage.

* Consider fitting immobilisers or a tracking device to your vehicle

* If you own a trailer or scooter, consider fitting wheel locks and coupling locks

* Don't leave valuables or items attractive to thieves (eg phones, laptops, bags) in plain sight inside the vehicle. Either take them with you or lock them in the boot or out of sight.

* Don't leave spare car keys in obvious places in the house.

* If you have any information about people stealing or dealing in stolen cars please contact police. Information can also be provided anonymously through Crimestoppers 0800 555 111.