Families are facing the double whammy of organised car thieves targeting homes in the area and insurance premiums rocketing to the second highest in the UK.

Police have reported a significant spike in cars being stolen in the last three months, with criminal gangs believed to be co-ordinating thefts to strip vehicles of parts to sell abroad.

There were 43 reported incidents in the last three months, with Woodford Green particularly affected.

The rise in thefts is contributing to high car insurance premiums, with the IG postcode, identified by the AA as the second most expensive area in the UK, after London.

A high number of accidents has also contributed to the average annual cost of insuring a car rising to £922.44 - an increase of 4.5 per cent in just the last three months.

AA Insurance Managing director, Janet Connor, said: "The premium reflects the likelihood of a claim being made.

"Sadly, the criminality of some people has a detrimental effect of the premiums paid by honest motorists in such places."

Police are warning car owners to be vigilant after the spike in thefts, with Mercedes Sprinter vans, Ford Galaxy people carriers and high-powered motorcycles most at risk.

Police say the vehicles are being stolen from outside homes at night and left nearby by criminals, who wait to see if a tracker device alerts police before they take it away.

There has also been a spike in thefts from vehicles, with 52 reported in the last three months.

Police say they have made arrests, but declined to reveal when or how many.

For more on this story see this week's Guardian - out today