Car crime in Wales' capital city accounts for a quarter of all crimes committed in Cardiff and has increased by 12% over the last five years.
On average one car an hour is broken into or stolen in Cardiff
Cardiff Community Safety Partnership figures show there is three and a half times more car crime than house burglaries in the city.
South Wales Police link the thefts from vehicles with drug addiction.
Nearly 10,000 vehicles were broken into or stolen in the last year, with an average of one car an hour targeted.
Despite a police operation launched to tackle the problem, officers admit that the scale of the problem means it will take a long time to be rectified.
Superintendent Pat Tucker from South Wales Police said: "Since the operation began, we've made more than 250 arrests of those who are committing car crime around the city.
"We're also starting to see improvements in some aspects of our auto-crime levels but we must stress that the main impact isn't likely to be felt for some time to come as we've seen the problem escalate over the last five years."
He said that many car crime incidents were directly linked with illegal drug use, with users breaking into cars to steal things which can later be sold to pay for drugs.
South Wales Police, which covers Cardiff, said overall car crime within the force has been reduced by 13% over the last five years.
But the problem has increased in Cardiff from 7,963 incidents of car crime in 2000/1 to 9,053 in 2004/5.
The majority of the car crime committed in the city relates to the theft of items from vehicles - it is twice as high as thefts of vehicles.
As part of a campaign to tackle the problem, the Cardiff Community Safety Partnership has launched Operation Lock-Up which includes patrolling areas in the city which are hot spots for vehicle crime.
Supt Tucker added: "A major part of the campaign is based around an intensive period of marketing and media work, which will hopefully lead people paying more attention to the security of their cars and any valuables that are carelessly left on view.
"What might seem an insignificant item to you will be attractive to the car thief particularly if it helps pay for another hit of drugs," he added.