Greater Manchester Police have taken the controversial step of writing to 10,000 householders advising them to fit a tracking device to their cars to stem a spate of vehicle theft.

The letter advises householders that thieves are increasingly resorting to house burglaries to obtain car keys. This has led to 169 vehicle thefts from the south Trafford area in the last 12 months.

Police estimate half of all stolen vehicles are never recovered, costing insurers £1.5bn every year.

PC Tony Crompton said police were using plain clothes officers and high profile patrols to tackle the problem but admitted these methods were not long term solutions.

He warned: “It is clear, from the perspective of the thief, that the benefits of stealing a vehicle with its keys far outweighs the perceived chances of them being caught and therefore the worrying trend is very likely to continue.”

The officer said that police were able to recover seven of the 169 stolen vehicles, mainly because they were fitted with the Tracker recovery system.

Crompton said: “Clearly, Tracker works and ensures that, should your vehicle become stolen, it has a much greater chance of being recovered quickly and with less damage.”

He asks householders to consider fitting Tracker or similar devices to their cars. Police also advise on taking other preventative measures, such as fitting a household burglar alarm.

Tracker marketing and business development manager Colin Paterson said the initiative by Greater Manchester Police was another example of the unique relationship between it and the police.

He said: “Without the proven effectiveness of Tracker stolen vehicle recovery systems, we would not have received such a positive endorsement of our product in this crime reduction campaign.”

Police said Tracker had recovered £100m of stolen vehicles and assisted in the arrest of 1,230 thieves.