Estonia has one of the lowest rates of car crime in the European Union, with only around a quarter of the average of cars stolen per year. The figure in Estonia is also half what it had been in 2015, the Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) reports.
The PPA believe this is thanks to close cooperation between law enforcement agencies, insurers and communities.
According to recent Eurostat figures, just under 700,000 cars were reported stolen 2015-2017, or 139 car thefts per 100,000 inhabitants, However, in Estonia over the same period, the figure was 31 per 100,000.
This puts Estonia fourth from bottom in car theft in the EU, with only Croatia, Romania and Denmark experiencing lower rates.
Luxembourg topped the table with 328 thefts by 100,000 inhabitants, followed by Greece (269) and Italy (257). The U.K. was treated as three separate entities, with England and Wales (167 thefts per 100,000 inhabitants) experiencing higher car crime rates than Scotland (95) and Northern Ireland (84).
Car crime in the EU is nevertheless falling – in 2008-2010, over 980,000 cars were stolen.
PPA: Car crime control a priority
Head of the PPA's Northern Prefecture criminal bureau Urmet Tambre said that his office had striven to keep car theft under control.
"When more expensive cars with a keyless starter system started to fall prey to thieves in Estonia, we had to react very quickly and resolutely," he said.
"We knew that if we were too slow, we wouldn't be able to prevent these thefts," he went on, noting that a proactive approach was taken when organized car thieves arrived in the country.
"By working together, as of today we are able to quote these figures. Many other countries have been dormant - getting to the root of the problem has been the key to our success," Tambre said.
Cooperation with communities and insurers has also been a factor.
"The low number of car thefts in Estonia is largely due to the cooperation of different organizations with different insurance companies, which is why we have also been able to act not by approaching each theft on a case-by-case basis, but via the bigger picture," he said.
"Community behavior also plays a huge role. Car thieves are simply not comfortable operating in Estonia. Residents are attentive and often take pictures of suspicious vehicles or people moving around in their area," he added.
Car thefts halved since 2015, Volkswagen most popular target
Additionally, car theft rates in Estonia have almost halved since 2015, from 338 that year, to 185 in 2018.
Nearly half the thefts which occurred last year took place in the most populous county in Estonia, Harju County, with 16 percent in Ida-Viru County, 14 percent in Tartu County and a little under 10 percent in Pärnu County.
So far as brands go, Volkswagen was the most popular marque from the 1,116 cars stolen 2015-November 2019, with over 200 vehicles stolen (19 percent of the total). Two more German manufacturers, BMW (13 percent of the total) and Audi (8 percent) were next-most popular, with Mercedes in fifth place, just behind Ford.
While efforts have been made to curtail international crime gangs, such people are still operating, in addition to local, home-grown thieves, Tambre said, noting that precautions should still be taken.
"Keeping doors and windows locked ... will help prevent car theft," Tambre said, referring to homes as well as vehicles themselves.
"Certainly, car keys should not be stored in locations easily accessible to thieves, such as hallways. This can be avoided by storing the keys in, for example, special storage bozes or bags. It is also not be advisable to leave a car unattended for an extended period of time," he added.
Editor: Andrew Whyte