Despite an overall drop in vehicle thefts of about 11 per cent across the state in 2019-20, numbers doubled in Byron, jumping from 49 to 98 in the 12 months to September, compared with the previous year.
Nationally, 56,300 motor vehicles were stolen in the 2019-20 financial year, a rate of about 154 thefts a day.
Motor vehicle thefts have been trending down over the past two decades. NSW had 54,702 motor vehicle thefts in 2000, nearly 80 per cent more than this year.
National Motor Vehicle Theft Reduction Council chief executive Geoff Hughes suggested that the 2020 figure could have been higher had COVID-19 restrictions not kept people inside.
But as restrictions ease, there could be an increase in property crime, including motor vehicle theft, he said.
Jackie Fitzgerald, executive director of NSW BOCSAR, said coronavirus restrictions had disrupted criminal activity by reducing the “movement and mobility” of the offending population.
She said the fall in motor vehicle thefts, however, was “unexpected” as the rate had begun to plateau.
The Holden Commodore was the most commonly stolen type of car, with the six most stolen Commodore series representing nearly 2000 thefts, data collected by the theft reduction council shows.
This was followed by the Toyota Hilux, with four series accounting for 1290 thefts.
Mr Hughes said the choice of these cars was linked to their popularity and suggested that, in a few years’ time, smaller cars and SUVs might be higher on the list.
Across the country, cars were most frequently stolen from residential locations, such as dwellings and residential sheds or garages, accounting for 54.3 per cent of all thefts in 2019-20.
The next most popular theft location was cars parked on the street, accounting for 24 per cent, followed by cars parked in business, commercial or government service locations, which made up 11 per cent of thefts.
Car parks and shopping centres were the least popular theft locations, making up 4 and 2 per cent respectively.
Cars that were between five and 14 years old were the most commonly stolen, accounting for 44 per cent of vehicle thefts. Vehicles that were made in the past four years made up 20 per cent of thefts, while cars aged 15 to 19 years made up 16.4 per cent.
The average age of stolen vehicles has consistently been 10 years.
About 72 per cent of stolen vehicles were recovered, with a third of cars found on the same day as the theft.
More than 60 per cent of cars and other vehicles and 66 per cent of motorbikes were found in the same local government area in which they were stolen.
But Mr Hughes says cars that are not recovered are often used in other types of crime, including shootings, drug trafficking or home robberies.
“Nearly any serious crime will involve a stolen vehicle,” he said.
A NSW Police spokesperson said motorists should ensure car windows are up and doors are locked as it is “an offence under Australian Road Rules to leave your car unlocked”.
Pallavi Singhal is a data journalist at The Sydney Morning Herald
Laura is a crime reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald.