THIEVES stealing property from cars had a merry run-up to Christmas, with an increase in crime for the second winter running.

Vehicle crime in Oxford rose by almost a third between October and December, compared to the same period the previous year, from 209 incidents to 272.

The 2011 figures were also up on 2010.

December saw a marked spike of almost two thirds, from 50 crimes to 82, sparking a warning from police for motorists to be more safety conscious.

Comparative figures showed that thefts from vehicles had almost doubled from the same period in 2011.

In December 2011, the force recorded 36 vehicle break-ins, but 12 months on that number rose to 66. And in November 2012 there were 87 vehicle break-ins, up 13 per cent on the previous year’s total of 64.

In the same month, car thefts also rose by 40 per cent, up to 14 from 10 in November 2011.

Figures released by Thames Valley Police showed one more car was stolen in December 2012 than December 2011 – 14.

Drivers have been told not to leave motors running unattended to defrost in cold weather as it makes stealing vehicles easy for opportunist thieves.

There were two aggravated vehicle thefts, or carjackings, logged in December 2012, compared to one the previous year and one in 2010.

Det Sgt Bill Sykes, from Thames Valley Police auto crime team, said number plate thefts were also notable.

He said: “The most recent offences have been in the Cowley area between Cowley Road and Iffley Road.

“Don’t leave anything of value in gloveboxes, don’t give someone a reason to break in. Thieves will look for the easiest route.

“You won’t see it as much when the warmer weather comes in, but people were running their engines to defrost their cars, with their keys inside. Of course, the car can get stolen.

“We are also seeing a rise in stolen number plates and are advising people to get anti-theft screws fitted.

“Thieves will take number plates and put them on cars that they use to steal fuel so the recognition device doesn’t catch them.

“They will also use the number plate to carry out more serious crimes, putting them on stolen cars, for example, to sell on.

“It is important to remember to remove signs that a sat nav has been used in the vehicle, for example, removing marks on the window from the sucker and charging cords left plugged into cigarette lighters.”

Thames Valley Police is looking to set dates to host events where officers will fix tamper-proof number plate screws on cars free of charge.