New taskforce targeting car crime as thefts rise by a quarter
A new vehicle crime taskforce has made more than 40 arrests since it was launched last month in response to rising levels of car theft in the West Midlands.
Latest crime figures from the Office for National Statistics show that incidents of car thefts in the region increased by a quarter in the 12 months to June.
West Midlands Police says it has been receiving between 250 to 350 car crime reports every week.
The taskforce was set up in September to target offenders and so-called ‘chop shops’ that dismantle vehicles for parts.
“The 25-strong unit will flex to act swiftly on emerging intelligence on crime patterns and suspects, ramp up patrols in hotspot areas, and carry out operations to close down chop shops, which act as a market for car thieves,” said West Midlands Police.
“The team has a wealth of expertise from officers with local knowledge to experienced detectives and will work alongside our existing teams, such as traffic officers, to catch offenders.”
The force said it has already led to a number of successes, including the number of crime theft reports beginning to drop, closing down three suspected chop shops and improving our stolen vehicle recovery rate, which is now double to what it was, this time last year.
Detective Superintendent Jim Munro, who heads up the taskforce, said he understands the anger and frustration of being a victim of vehicle crime – and he is “determined to catch the gangs who are causing people pain”.
He said: “Having a vehicle stolen can cost livelihoods and cause huge inconveniences in our every day lives; from not being able to attend appointments or having to make other arrangements to get children to school. The thought of having a car key burglar in your home is also terrifying.
“So we’ve created this new team to focus on helping to catch these criminals and put them behind bars. We’ll be constantly assessing and monitoring which areas are being targeted in our region and be ready to pounce.
“We’ll have plain-clothed officers supporting our visible police presence and will act on intelligence we receive. We know a large number of vehicles end up in chop shops where they are dismantled for parts and we’ll execute warrants if we suspect illegal activity is taking place in premises.”
Det Supt Munro added: “We also need the help of the public in driving down vehicle crime by letting us know of suspicious activity, or those involved, so we can act and stop it.”
Deputy Chief Constable Vanessa Jardine said: “Vehicle theft has increased by a quarter, this is largely driven by a global shortage of car parts with many cars stolen and ending up in premises where they are broken down for parts which are then sold on.
“We would urge people to support us by reporting any suspicious behaviour at garages or industrial units. We’re also supporting security improvements at vehicle crime hotspots, including hotels and shops.
“Recovery rates of stolen vehicles have doubled over the past 12 months, from nine per cent, compared to September this year where the rate was in excess of 19 per cent.”
West Midlands police and crime commissioner Simon Foster said he was pleased to see the force “taking a tough stance on car crime”.
“West Midlands Police know I am deeply concerned by the rise in car thefts and, as such, I receive regular updates from the force. This scrutiny will continue,” he added.
“In conjunction with the action taken by the police to prevent and tackle car crime, I am also putting pressure on manufacturers to up their game and tighten electronic security systems on cars, to prevent organised car crime gangs profiting from vehicle theft.”