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Arson related motor vehicle thefts in NSW and SA, 2002 to 2012

Published: March 2013

Arson of stolen vehicles is largely associated with insurance fraud, the destruction of forensic evidence, and for fun/thrill seeking. It adds substantially to the overall cost of motor vehicle theft to the community. This report profiles arson incidents involving stolen vehicles in both New South Wales (NSW) and South Australia (SA), as they both have reliable data regarding the condition of recovered vehicles.

Number of arson related motor vehicle thefts

Year reported to PoliceNSWSA
20023,610612
20032,992662
20043,396800
20053,339727
20063,052672
20072,687725
20082,570667
20092,544585
20102,287501
20112,255481
20122,116448
Arson related motor vehicle thefts as a percentage of total short term (recovered) thefts
Year reported to PoliceNSWSA
200210.76.4
200310.87.7
200413.29.6
200515.69.9
200614.810.4
200714.312.4
200815.314.5
200917.215.3
201017.215.1
201117.214.9
201217.914.7

Key findings

  • Between 2002 and 2012, short term (recovered) motor vehicle theft reduced by 65 percent in NSW and 68 percent in SA. Over the same period, arson related motor vehicle theft also reduced but not to the same extent (down 41 percent in NSW and 27 percent in SA).
  • Arson related motor vehicle theft now represents a greater proportion of short term theft. In NSW, it increased from 11 percent in 2002 to 18 percent of total short term theft in 2012. SA increased from 6 to 15 percent.
  • In both NSW and SA, the majority (97 percent) of arson related motor vehicle thefts involved a passenger/light commercial (PLC) vehicle.
  • Assuming all vehicles were complete write-offs and using vehicle value estimates from the Glass's Guide, arson related PLC theft in 2012 was worth $19.4 million in NSW and $3.0 million in SA.
  • Generally, arson related theft targets in 2012 were likely to be low value, older and therefore less secure, recovered within 24 hours and recovered less than 5kms from the theft, for example:
    • In NSW, 46 percent of arson related PLC theft was valued at less than $5,000. In SA, it was higher at 57 percent.
    • In NSW, 60 percent of arson related theft targets were more than 10 years old. In SA, it was higher at 71 percent.
    • In both NSW and SA, 67 percent of arson related thefts were recovered within 24 hours.
    • In NSW, 54 percent of arson related thefts were recovered less than 5kms from the theft. In SA, it was lower at 34 percent.

Recovery location map of the 2,564 arson related thefts in NSW and SA, 2012

Getting started - Click or tap a recovery cluster to zoom in.  Zoom with your mouse scroll wheel, or multi-touch zoom on mobile browsers.

Legend: 1 to 9 10 to 49 50 to 149 >= 150 thefts Theft clusters are approximated from the suburb centroid (mid-point).


In this map, arson related thefts were based on motor vehicles that were stolen and recovered burnt, as indicated by NSW and SA Police. Recovery status is as at 31 January 2013. Distance from theft to recovery is the straight line distance between the theft and recovery suburb centroids.

The National Motor Vehicle Theft Reduction Council (NMVTRC) acknowledges all police services, registration authorities, participating insurers, the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries, Glass's Information Services and Insurance Australia Group for the supply of the data on which this report is complied. Theft incident data may be subject to later revision by the data providers. This work is copyright. Material may be reproduced for personal, non-commercial use or for use within your organisation with attribution to the NMVTRC. © 2016 NMVTRC. All rights reserved.

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