Car thefts on the rise

Thieves are moving away from hotwiring parked vehicles and are instead robbing owners at gunpoint but despite the alarming increase of vehicle robberies for 2018, Police Commissioner Gary Griffith says he is not disclosing how he intends to crack down on the thriving multi-million dollar stolen vehicle industry.

During an interview, Griffith said, "You are asking me about an operations issue and I cannot answer that. I'm not going to be dealing with specifics of any type of crime." 

For this year there was a 94 per cent increase in vehicle robberies with 120  vehicle robberies occurring between January to May compared to 62 during the same period last year.

However, a source with the Stolen Vehicles Squad said because newer vehicles were outfitted with coded electronic keys and are more difficult to break into, thieves are finding it more feasible to take a vehicle using force." He said when a car is stolen at gunpoint, the thieves have already strategized where the vehicle will be parked and once it cools down, it will be scrapped and sold as parts."

Some of the vehicles which carry coded keys are the new model Mazda 3, Mazda BT50, Ford Ranger, Nissan Navarra, Toyota Prado, the new model Nissan X-Trail, Hyundai Tucson and Elantra.

The source noted that some of the thieves work with garages some of which are known by the police. However, the officer said it is difficult to identify parts as there are no markers to show from which vehicle it was taken.

Another senior officer from the Southern Division said it was imperative for an owner to report robbery as soon as possible because a vehicle could be driven into a homeowner's private garage and kept hidden until it is scrapped. He said some of the unscrupulous scrap dealers are so boldfaced that they advertise the parts for sale on Facebook and other social media.

He said real-time information is shared when a vehicle is stolen and this has been instrumental in the recovery of many stolen vehicles in the Southern Division.

The TTPS reported that between January 1st, 2017 to May 6th, 2017, vehicles theft totalled $29,465,595.00 and for the comparative period in 2018, the total was $27,469,850.00. 

Between  January 1st to May 5th, 2018, the Northern police division recorded 29 per cent or 35 reports of the total reported cases with the majority of robberies taking place at the victims’ residence.

In the Central division, 23 per cent of the robberies occurred whilst 21 per cent occurred in the Southern Division. Five robberies occurred in the Eastern division. 

Only 19 per cent of the 120 vehicles stolen were recovered. 

How to prevent vehicle robbery- 

The TTPS says citizens should always be aware of their surroundings and always ensure that their vehicle is properly secured. Parking in isolated areas on the street or in parking lots should be avoided.

Vehicles should also be parked in well-lit areas or if possible in areas where there are functioning CCTV cameras.

When purchasing a vehicle, citizens are to do their due diligence to ensure it is not a stolen vehicle. Citizens must also ensure that the vehicle is transferred to you within the prescribed time, which is 7 days, and ensure that it is purchased from a reputable company or a person known to them.

If members of the public require assistance, they can contact the Stolen Vehicle Unit, of the TTPS to have the vehicle verified before purchase.

- by Radhica De Silva

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