Insurance write-off sales 'behind surge in car thefts'

West Midlands Police is to lobby government and the insurance industry amid concerns the practice of selling written-off cars for repair is fuelling a surge in vehicle theft.

Investigations run by the force suggest criminal gangs are snapping up damaged cars rated insurance write-offs from salvage auctions - and then stealing cars to order for the parts they need to fix them and sell for a hefty profit.

Around five times more vehicles - mainly luxury marques like Audi, BMW and Range Rover or other high-spec cars - are sold at auction as repairable write-offs compared to write-offs to be scrapped for spare parts.

It’s suspected the imbalance is leading criminal gangs to steal cars - some during violent car-jackings - for matching spares rather than buy expensive factory-made parts from manufacturers. West Midlands Police Deputy Chief Constable Louisa Rolfe, said:

“We’ve witnessed a near 100 per cent increase in vehicle thefts across the West Midlands in the last four years - up from 5,215 in 2014-15 to more than 10,000 in 2017-18.

“And there’s a correlation between the types of cars being stolen and those available as repairable write-offs; it is our firm belief, supported by police intelligence, that this increase is being driven by the criminal demand for car parts. We will be raising our concerns with government, the Association of British Insurers and online auction and sales sites."

Stolen cars are broken down at so called ‘ chop -shops’ - back street garages or industrial estate units - sometimes in a matter of hours before repaired cars are sold on through online auction or sales sites. This week West Midlands Police launched its Shop a Chop Shop campaign urging people to report any premises they suspect is dismantling stolen vehicles.

DCC Rolfe also fears there is a serious public safety concern around the re-sale of repaired write-offs with some vehicles being passed on without features such as airbags.

If anyone suspects a location is being used as a chop -shop for stolen vehicles they are urged to call the independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111 or West Midlands Police on 101. 


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