Car-theft surcharge to stay
THE insurance industry has refused to waive the car-theft surcharge despite a sweeping police success in cutting the number of stolen vehicles in the past four months.
Mr Nick Helms, a spokesman for the Hongkong Accident Insurance Association, said the industry was not prepared to review the levy based only on the figures of the previous four months.
Latest police figures released yesterday show a continuing drop of car thefts this year - from 579 in January to 429, 409 and 322 in successive months.
There was a corresponding decrease in stolen luxury cars from a monthly average of 202 last year, to 150 in the first four months of this year.
But Mr Helms, an association committee member and former chairman, said it would be irresponsible to scrap the policy and then reintroduce it again when figures went up.
The surcharge would only be reviewed in October when the association carried out its annual review on its rating structure, he said.
''If those figures follow that trend and continue for a longer period, at least if it carries through till the end of the year, we'll certainly consider the waiving of the surcharge.'' The police figures show an impressive drop of the number of stolen vehicles from 6,918 last year, to 1,739 in the first four months.
The monthly average dropped by 27 per cent from 593 cases to 434.
The number of lost luxury vehicles stood at 282 in January, and steadily declined to 134, 123, and 68 in successive months.
Thefts of Mercedes-Benz, a popular target for smugglers, have gone down from 100 in January to 43 last month.
Mr William Harvey, senior superintendent of the anti-smuggling taskforce, attributed the drop to the stepping up of police patrols.
Operation Disavow, which started on April 1, has brought round-the-clock police patrols targeting smuggling activities.
A total of 140 smuggling arrests have been made since the operation began, seizing goods worth more than $11 million.
Mr Harvey said the operation had put heavy pressure on smugglers, making it difficult to carry stolen vehicles out of Hongkong waters.
Mr Harvey's taskforce has identified two main car-theft syndicates in Hongkong and are keeping a close watch on their activities.
Chief Superintendent Chan Tit-kin, of the Organised Crime and Triad Bureau, said the police would continue its effort to combat car smuggling.
He said it was an encouraging sign that courts were giving out heavier sentences to vehicle smugglers.
The police would strengthen its link with the Chinese authorities while at the same time reviewing its measures to combat car-theft, he said.
It will further step up controls on customs check points.