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West Midlands Police has launched a campaign urging people to Shop a Chop Shop amid concerns a spiralling demand for car parts is fuelling the rise in vehicle crime, including car key burglaries and violent car-jackings.

Vehicle crime has increased significantly in the last two years driven by the demand for parts to repair write-offs sold as repairable by the insurance industry.

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

And it’s suspected the imbalance is leading criminal gangs to steal cars to order for matching spares rather than buy expensive factory-made parts from manufacturers.

Stolen vehicles are broken down at so called ‘chop shops’ − sometimes in a matter of hours − in back street garages or industrial estate units before repaired cars are sold on via eBay, Gumtree, Autotrader or other auction sites.

West Midlands Police has operations running to target the thieves.

One probe into a suspected car theft ring, understood to have bought more than 250 write-offs at salvage auctions, led officers to uncover parts linked to around 90 stolen cars at a chop shop in Birmingham.

But the force is also urging members of the public, in-particular staff working at industrial estates, to report units or garages they suspect are being used to dismantle stolen vehicles.

Chief Superintendent Chris Todd, said: “There is a strong correlation between the types of cars being stolen in the region and those being made available as repairable write-offs. And we suspect some of these chop shops are making millions of pounds.

“We’re hoping our campaign will encourage people to call us if they suspect a garage or unit is being used for criminal purposes. If valuable cars are regularly arriving at the location but not seen leaving, or vehicle carcasses being taken for scrap having been stripped of parts.

“If anyone has suspicions we want to hear from them so we can investigate. It could turn out to be nothing but equally it could be the information we need to smash a car theft gang − and save motorists from suffering at their hands.”

As part of the campaign, PCSOs will be handing out leaflets to businesses operating out of industrial estates urging them to report suspicious activity.

Tell-tale signs could include:
• Noise coming from units late at night or in the early hours of the morning;
• Vehicles that look out of place going in to workshops and not coming back out;
• Large amounts of car parts being stored, sometimes in odd places such as gardens;
• Shipping containers in unusual locations;
• Expensive items such as engines and gearboxes outside workshops;
• Items for sale via on-line auction sites from the same seller, often in large quantities of the same item or similar.

West Midlands Police executed a warrant at a unit in Cherrywood Industrial Estate, Raleigh Road in Bordesley Green this morning (13 August) after information was received suggesting it could be stripping down stolen cars.

Three men were arrested on suspicion of handling stolen goods while a total of 13 vehicles were seized for examination; at least one has already been confirmed as being stolen.

West Midlands Fire Service, Trading Standards and the Environment Agency also joined the warrant to investigate any licensing breaches. 

The West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner, David Jamieson, who is currently leading a national campaign to reduce car crime, said: “I have made the theft of vehicles a top priority not only for West Midlands Police, but also for the large car manufacturers who have a responsibility to tighten vehicle security and make them much more difficult to steel. 

“I’m pleased to see the force is taking this issue so seriously and is working around the clock to find and shut down the illegal Chop Shops.

“I won’t rest until the number of cars being stolen returns to the low levels we witnessed in 2015.” 

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