Increase in vehicle theft linked to shortage of auto parts

Thieves across the country are dismantling cars “within hours” so they can sell the parts for “high prices”, according to a senior officer.

West Midlands Police Superintendent Jim Munro today advised motorists not to assume vehicles left in car parks for just a few minutes are safe.

Some 88,915 vehicle thefts in the 12 months to March 7 were recorded by the 34 police forces which provided full figures in response to freedom of information requests.

This suggests that an average of 244 vehicles are stolen each day – one every six minutes.

The West Midlands is one of six strength areas to record an increase in thefts compared to the same period two years earlier. It was up 19%, a figure that compares with 28% in South Yorkshire, 25% in the City of London, 12% in Surrey, 4% in Merseyside and 1% in Greater Manchester.

Factory closures around the world due to the coronavirus pandemic have caused a shortage of semiconductor chips and other components in countries like the UK.

Supt Munro said: “What we have seen during the pandemic is that there are parts supply issues in the automotive industry and delays in builds.

“What we have seen in the West Midlands is also what we have seen across the room nationally – there is a desire for certain vehicle parts, and that is fueling motor vehicle crime theft. “

Mr Munro called the process an “unauthorized dismantling of vehicles”.

He said: “Vehicles are stolen, sometimes taken to nearby industrial units, people work all night in industrial areas, and sometimes these vehicles have been stripped within hours. The parts are then resold and the shells have been awaiting scrap.”

He added: “We’ve seen issues with microchips, but also with particular vehicle parts that have been difficult for people to get.

“Some of these coins are being sold for quite high prices due to demand.”

Mr Munro said there is a correlation between the most common car brands on the road and the models most targeted by thieves, as their parts have “particularly high value due to the number of people who want them “.

Police are using a variety of tactics to try to slow the wave of vehicle thefts.

More than 2,000 suspects have been arrested by West Midlands Police in the past 12 months as part of Operation Cantil, which has also recovered 1,000 stolen cars.

A number of chop shops – places where stolen vehicles are dismantled – have been discovered and taken out of use.

The forces are also working with the auto industry to predict which car brands will be vulnerable in the future and examine how their safety features can be improved.

Location-based technology is also used to send Instagram posts with car safety tips to drivers as they visit dealerships.

Superintendent Munro urged motorists wanting to avoid becoming a victim to “focus on where they leave their vehicle”.

He said many people mistakenly assume their car would be safe when parked for a short time in a location such as a business park, believing most thefts occur outside homes.

“Criminals exploit this,” he explained. “They use devices to block signals where people try to lock their cars with their remotes.

“When you lock your vehicle, make sure the vehicle is locked, the signal is not blocked, no matter how long you leave the vehicle.

“Whether it’s just to enter the store, make sure your car is always safe.”

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