Shock new figures have revealed hundreds of cars and motorbikes have been stolen across the north-east in the past 12 months.
Official statistics show thieves made off with 438 vehicles from properties in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire.
The region has been plagued by a “hard core” gang of car criminals who are known to police and have been accused of putting lives at risk with their joyriding antics.
The culprits have been subject to curfews, driving bans and numerous bail orders to try to prevent getting behind the wheels of stolen cars.
The theft figures for Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire dwarf those for the neighbouring Moray region and the north.
In the Highlands, 98 vehicles were stolen in the same time period and the total for Moray was just 22 in Moray. There were also 22 incidents in the islands.
Last night, Martin Greig, chairman of Aberdeen Community Safety Partnership and a city councillor, called for tougher sentences to deter repeat offenders.
He said: “These crimes appear to be spiralling out of control.
“The police do a good job in publicising measures to reduce the risk of car crime but often the courts hand out lenient sentences.
“Sadly, an enormous number of innocent people have suffered from the criminal behaviour of a small number of individuals.”
Peter Rodger, of the Institute of Advance Motorists, said: “Modern cars are harder to steal so the ways in which vehicles are being stolen have changed.
“As modern cars cannot be stolen without the keys, our advice is that you look after your keys as you would your wallet.
“This of course cannot prevent the ‘super criminals’ who can hack electronic systems – but unfortunately criminals of this nature will always be unstoppable.
“From a road safety perspective, stolen cars are bad news as they are more likely to be driven less carefully and they cannot be insured.”
Meanwhile, a senior police officer who spearheads the force’s effort to combat vehicle thefts in the north-east said those responsible were putting lives at risk.
Detective Inspector Stuart McAdam said: “My overriding concern is that the majority of these people don’t seem to care who they target, what they take and who they might hurt in the process.
“This is nothing more than a thrill for them, however it’s a thrill that can cause a great deal of upset, expense and could have fatal consequences if the worst was to happen.
“We’re lucky to live in a region with relatively low crime levels, but I would once again urge the public to not be complacent when it comes to their home and vehicle security as we need to ensure these people don’t stand a chance in the first place.
“The majority of car thefts could have been avoided if the vehicles or homes had not been left insecure and we are finding more and more that thieves are not forcing doors – they simply try door handles in the hope they are unlocked.
“In many cases the people involved are returning to areas where they have been successful before – and their criminal behaviour continues to escalate once they’ve been able to gain easy access to homes and cars.”