Manchester tops car-crime table: Insurance firm rates northern urban areas the worst for vehicle crime. Terry Kirby reports

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CAR OWNERS in the Greater Manchester area are more likely to have their vehicles stolen or broken into than in any other parts of the country, according to a car crime league table released yesterday.

The area showed an increase of only 1.9 per cent in 1992, but has 44.5 car crimes per 1,000 of the local population; Cleveland and Nottinghamshire are close behind, although the total number of crimes dropped in the latter. During 1992, the biggest rises in all car crimes were in Lincolnshire, Cambridgeshire and Gloucestershire.

Dyfed-Powys, in Wales, is the safest area for car crime in the country with just 10 car crimes per 1,000 people. Greater London, where car crime rose by just 2.5 per cent last year, is 12th in the table, registering 33.4 crimes per 1,000 people. The rise is due entirely to an increase of almost 5 per cent in thefts from cars; thefts of cars dropped by more than 2 per cent.

The annual league table is compiled by The Insurance Service, an insurance company, using official police and population statistics.

With the exception of Avon and Somerset, and Gloucestershire, rural areas have fewer car crimes and northern urban areas are the worst affected. Cleveland tops the league for thefts of cars, with 22.6 crimes per 1,000 people, while Gloucestershire is the worst area for thefts from cars, with 2.4 per 1,000, a 27 per cent increase. Dyfed- Powys is lowest in both categories.

Insurers warned yesterday that premiums would continue to rise as a consequence of car crime and it was the responsibility of the public to take preventive measures, such as closing windows and sun roofs, parking in well-lit areas and fitting alarms.

Michael Edwards, deputy managing director of The Insurance Service, said that the company handled many claims each year from people who had left their keys in the ignition. 'We think many more do it but are too embarrassed to admit the fact,' he said.

The Association of British Insurers said premiums for Greater London would remain bigger than other areas that are higher in the table because of the much higher risk of accidents in the capital, which still represent the bulk of claims - about 70 per cent. But it was possible that the part of the premium which represents crimes - about 12 per cent - would be higher in some areas outside London.

The Department of Trade and Industry has issued a warning about insurance certificates issued in the name 'Mandarin' through Car Tective - based in Windsor - or Car Tective's agents in the Southampton area.

The DTI said: 'Mandarin Motor Policies & National Insurance Company ('Mandarin') said to be based in Jupiter, Florida, in the United States, is not authorised to carry on any class of insurance business in the UK. Any person holding a certificate of insurance issued by, or in the name of either of the above companies, should consult their insurance adviser urgently with a view to obtaining alternative cover.'

(Table omitted)