More than 3, 000 thefts from motor vehicles were reported in Sheffield last year – but less than one per cent of thieves were caught and charged.
The Star can also reveal today the top vehicle break-in hot spots.
The city centre had the most incidents with 284, followed by Broomhill and Sharrow Vale with 180 and Darnall which had 168.
The figures, revealed using the Freedom of Information Act, were described as “truly shocking” by shadow policing minister Louise Haigh, who put the low charge rate down to cuts to services.
Police said resources are prioritised to tackle the hardest hit areas, and the force has a number of initiatives aimed at tackling thefts from vehicles.
Ms Haigh, Labour's Sheffield Heeley MP, said: “These figures are truly shocking and reveal the chaos on our streets thanks to almost a decade of cuts to policing from this reckless Tory Government.
“Violent crime is soaring, burglaries and robberies are up, so it’s little wonder that the police don’t feel able to dedicate resources to vehicle thefts.
“However, too often these crimes mean someone’s life turned upside down, their business ruined.
“Small business owners who keep their tools in their van find they can’t go to work and look on frustrated as the thieves get away with it.
“It’s past time that the Government invested in our police and fulfilled the first duty of any government – to keep its citizens safe.”
There were 3172 reported incidents of 'theft from a motor vehicle' across Sheffield in 2018.
Just 16 people were charged or summonsed for vehicle theft or an alternative offence, which amounts to about 0.5 per cent.
On 3032 occasions – or just over 95 per cent of cases – an investigation was completed but no suspects were identified.
On 99 occasions police faced 'evidential difficulties', such as the victim not supporting further police action.
Douglas Johnson, a councillor for the city ward – which had the highest number of reported incidents, said: “It’s not surprising city ward has the most car crime because it has the most cars.
“Along with the highest level of traffic incidents, it is another reason to take public transport to work.
“As councillors, we often talk to residents who have been victims of car crime. Typically, we get spates of crime on the outskirts of the city centre, like Kelham Island and Shoreham Street, where lines of cars all have their windows smashed.”
He added: “We do our best to support residents but it’s difficult for police when resources have been cut so much and there are other pressing issues like knife crime and drug dealing.
“Cuts in resources affect back room functions like prosecuting cases to court. This might be one reason why thieves are not prosecuted even if they are caught red-handed. So I know the frustration of residents.
In a statement, Inspector John Mallows, of the Sheffield Central and North West Neighbourhood Policing Team, said: “We have a limited amount of resources and must prioritise those incidents that pose the most threat, therefore cannot always attend vehicle thefts.
“We are able to identify hot spot locations and use data to identity timings in which offences are most likely to happen.
“From this intelligence we are able to conduct high visibility patrols, increase CCTV monitoring and work with our partner agencies to improve issues such as street lighting, that can deter offenders. We also issue targeted messaging to communities about vehicle crime prevention.”
He added: “Vehicle owners leave valuable items on display which can attract offenders. Owners often lock valuable items away, such as mobile phone or sat nav, but leave charging cables or screen mounts visible.
“To avoid becoming a victim of vehicle theft, please remember to lock or remove all valuable items from view.
“Remove all cables, chargers, mounts and accessories from view. Try and park your vehicle in a well-lit area, secure car park or an area with CCTV. Remember to lock all of your doors.”
Insp Mallows explained that investigating officers often face difficulties when investigating vehicle crime, such as lack of evidence, including forensics, and CCTV footage.
He accepts that while prosecution numbers are low suspected crooks “are often charged with additional offences that they are wanted in connection to.”
The officer urged members of the public to always report crime and to sign up for police community alerts, in which police issue crime prevention advice.
Report crime to police on 101.
Top 10 most theft from motor vehicle areas in Sheffield in 2018:-
City centre – 284
Broomhill and Sharrow Vale - 180
Darnall – 168
Nether Edge and Sharrow – 159
Hillsborough – 157
Walkley - 138
Gleadless Valley – 138
Crookes and Crosspool – 127
Southey – 122
Burngreave – 119