Crime at UK Airports – The most dangerous airports

  • 21 Jul, 2021
  • Alice Fowler

Investigation into crime rates at airports in the UK

Going on a trip, whether it’s for business or for leisure should be as straightforward as can be. Here at Airport Parking Shop however we do sometimes receive the odd story of a bad parking experience. We wanted to find out what the volume of crimes at airports were and how much of that was parking related to see how much of a problem it actually is. We also wanted to know what the most common crimes at airports are, so when you’re travelling you can be aware of this and hopefully avoid becoming a victim.

The good news is, crime rates at airports are really, really low. On average, the crime rate across the airports in England and Wales that we looked at was 0.009%. This was for crimes recorded as a percentage of passenger volume at the airport. In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, using 2018 figures, the rate was around 0.086% (ONS, 2018). So that means that you’re ten times more likely to be involved in a crime elsewhere in the UK than you are at an airport, which is a pretty reassuring fact!

Crime rates across airports in England and Wales

Types of crime at Airports

So what types of crime do you need to be wary of at airports? Find below the types of crime that have been recorded at airports in England, Wales and NI and what they mean.

Crime Definition
Anti-social behaviour Includes personal, environmental and nuisance anti-social behaviour
Bicycle Theft Includes the taking without consent or theft of a pedal cycle
Burglary Includes offences where a person enters a house or other building with the intention of stealing
Criminal Damage and Arson Includes damage to buildings and vehicles and deliberate damage by fire
Drugs Includes offences related to possession, supply and production
Other Crime Includes forgery, perjury and other miscellaneous crime
Other Theft Includes theft by an employee, blackmail and making off without payment
Possession of weapons Includes possession of a weapon, such as a firearm or knife
Public Order Includes offences which cause fear, alarm or distress
Robbery Includes offences where a person uses force or threat of force
Public Order Includes personal, environmental and nuisance anti-social behaviour
Shoplifting Includes theft from shops or stalls
Theft from a person Includes crimes that involve theft directly from the victim (including handbag, wallet, cash, mobile phones) but without the use or threat of physical force
Vehicle crime Includes theft from or of a vehicle or interference with a vehicle
Violence and sexual offences Includes offences against the person such as common assaults, Grievous Bodily Harm and sexual offences

Definitions taken from

Which airport is the most dangerous?

Technically, the airport with the most crimes recorded is Heathrow. It would be a misnomer however to claim that this is the most dangerous airport because it also has the highest volume of passenger traffic! As a percentage of the passengers, its volume of crime is actually well below the average at 0.006%.

If we look at the percentage of crimes against the total number of passengers, Teesside International Airport is actually the most dangerous. At this airport you are more likely to be involved in a crime than at any other airport. Let’s put this into perspective, however, as realistically it means that around 0.6 people per 1000 would be affected by crime, and when you consider that Teesside only actually had around 140,000 passengers in 2018, it doesn’t seem all that dangerous! Bearing this in mind, how well did the other airports do? Below you can see the top 3 most dangerous and least dangerous airports when we look at crime rate versus passengers:

Top 3 most dangerous airports

  1. Teesside International Airport
  2. Southend Airport
  3. Stansted Airport

Top 3 safest airports

  1. Belfast International Airport
  2. Bristol Airport
  3. Gatwick Airport

Interestingly, if we were to think about personal safety, and only count violent crime that may affect you as a passenger, the result is a little bit different. For example, if we only include weapons possession, public order, robbery, theft from a person, and violence and sexual offences, then Gatwick Airport moves out of the safest airports group and is replaced by Belfast City, which implies there is proportionally more violent crime at Gatwick.

Crime at major airports

There is an argument to say that by including the smaller airports the data is skewed slightly as due to the lower volume of passengers there is less chance of things going wrong. So let’s look at the major airports in England and Wales; Heathrow, Gatwick, Manchester, Stansted, Luton, and Birmingham. Out of these airports, London Stansted Airport unfortunately comes out the worst with the highest crime rate. It also has one of the highest rates of criminal damage and arson, and the highest rate of weapons possession!

Gatwick deemed the safest of the major airports

On the contrary, Gatwick Airport comes up as the safest of the major airports when you look at crimes per passenger volume. The rates of crimes across the board are all mostly below the average, and in only once instance – theft from the person – does it come out near the top. So, you might want to keep an eye on your pockets and luggage, but we’d recommend that in any airport!

How safe is my vehicle when parked at the airport?

This was our motivation to research this data and we are pretty encouraged by the outcome. On average, vehicle crime made up just 6.5% of crimes at airports. Anti-social behaviour, other theft, shoplifting and violence and sexual offences were all much more common across the airports. However, there are three airports that stand out as having much higher than average vehicle crime rates.

Vehicle crime at UK airports

Birmingham tops the table at over 17% of crimes being related to vehicles, followed by Manchester at 14.65% and Leeds at 12.16%. Most other airports were comfortably between 0-8%. We contacted the police forces who are responsible for Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds Airports for comment about these high rates.

Responses from the airports

Steven Jobson from the West Midlands Police Airport Unit told us that unfortunately 2018 was a very unusual year for vehicle crime at the airport. They had a series of incidents that were all caused by a “career criminal”, as well as a spate of crimes carried out as revenge against a particular company. This activity is of course not that common and has unfortunately skewed the figures for the year!

Likewise, when PS Neil Perkis from Leeds Bradford Airport Police responded to our query regarding their high vehicle crime rate, we found out that the airport car parks were targeted by an organised crime unit intent on stealing satnavs. They have made several arrests in connection to these crimes and since then their vehicle crime rate has decreased.

So overall, parking your car at the airport is really quite safe at the majority of airports, with minimal chances of crime. Even when the rates seem quite high, there is often a reason for this as explained by Birmingham and Leeds Bradford. Of course there is always a risk, which is the same for many places where you leave your car unattended! There are however ways to minimise this risk further:

Tips to keep your car safe at the airport

  • Run a quote and compare all your car parking options
  • Decide if you’d like to park the car somewhere that you park the car yourself and keep your keys, or if you don’t mind handing your keys over in exchange for a more seamless experience
  • Check reviews of car parks – this is where you can read real life experiences with each car park and how well they do
  • Check for a “Park Mark”, which is an award given to car parks that have passed certain tests. Read more about the Park Mark Award here!
  • Read the car park information carefully so you aren’t surprised by any details

So what crimes are the most common at airports?

Most common crimes at airports were petty crimes

Below you can see what the most common crime at each airport is. Where the most common crime is “Other theft” we’ve included the second most common as well as “other theft” is quite a vague category!

Airport Most common crime
Belfast City Other theft, Shoplifting
Belfast International Other theft, Violence and sexual offences
Birmingham Other theft, vehicle crime
Bristol Other theft, possession of weapons
Cardiff Violence and sexual offences
Doncaster Sheffield Anti-social behaviour
East Midlands Other crime, shoplifting
Exeter Other theft, violence and sexual offences
Gatwick Other theft, Anti-social behaviour
Heathrow Anti-social behaviour
Leeds Other theft, vehicle crime
Liverpool Shoplifting
Luton Other theft, Anti-social behaviour
Manchester Anti-social behaviour
Newcastle Other theft, violence and sexual offences
Stansted Possession of weapons
Southampton Other theft, public order
Southend Violence and sexual offences
Teesside International Violence and sexual offences

You can take comfort from the fact that in most cases the most popular crimes at airports are not actually the violent ones. Crimes like theft, shoplifting and anti-social behaviour are by far the most common crimes across the airport. Plus, we were very encouraged to see that the overall crime rate at airports is pretty low, which is good news for your airport parking and for any concerns you may have when travelling!

About Alice Fowler

I love to travel and working in the airport parking world for nearly a decade has given me inside out knowledge of the industry. I love to help travellers get the best out of their trip, and their journey to the airport is an important part of that. Whether it's using our data to spot trends and pinpoint when people can save money, or opening the lid on airport parking tips and tricks, if it helps our customers, I'll write about it!

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2 responses to “Crime at UK Airports – The most dangerous airports”

  1. Hi Alice,

    Thank you for covering quite interesting topic. I am a frequent filer and this kind of thing crosses my mind every time I park my car before a flight. There is one fundamental question that I’d like answered: is it safer to park in places where I leave my keys to the parking staff and hope that nobody will peak into my boot, or is it better to park where I take my keys with me and know that my things are hidden from view?

    Kind regards,

    Eduard Gruber

    • Hi Eduard,

      That’s quite a tricky one to answer as no two car parks are the same! Our research didn’t give us the insight into the type of car parks used I’m afraid, so I can’t provide you with a statistical answer! However, I think both types of parking come with their own risks and rewards; for me personally I have never had an issue with parking where I’ve left my keys with the provider and will probably always choose and Meet and Greet option!

      Car parks which allow you to park and keep your keys may protect your vehicle from staff taking advantage or being nosy, but not necessarily damage (intentional or not) from the public, so you can see why it’s hard to give a definitive answer!

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