Car thieves driven away from luxury

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 31 October, 2000, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 31 October, 2000, 12:00am

Car crime is on the rise, with thieves switching their sights from luxury models to cheaper Japanese models, police figures show.

Car theft was up 11 per cent in the first nine months of the year compared with the same period last year, the Crime Prevention Bureau said.

But the demand for Mercedes and BMWs, stolen to be smuggled to the mainland, has fallen. The trend now is for vehicles to be dismantled and used for spare parts in the SAR.

'The parts are sold to garages and then re-sold to the public, or thieves remove the parts and put them into their own cars,' Senior Inspector Chiang Kwok-wah said. 'Sometimes we find only the shells of stolen cars. The parts - wheels, doors, seats and hi-fi systems - have been removed.'

Senior Inspector Chiang said thieves did not want engines because markings or serial numbers made them traceable. 'Japanese-brand cars like the Honda Civic and the Toyota Corolla are more vulnerable because they're popular in the SAR,' he said. 'We've stepped up patrols in garages in the New Territories and have gathered intelligence to find out where parts are on sale at low prices.'

The number of Civics, Corollas and Subarus reported stolen rose by two-thirds to 124 in the third quarter from 74 in the same period last year. There was also an increase in the number of four-wheel-drive vehicles going missing, although precise figures were unavailable.

Seventeen Mercedes and BMWs were reported stolen in the third quarter, compared with 29 in the same period last year. In 1992 a total of 2,529 luxury cars were reported stolen.

Officers said there was a drop in the number of stolen luxury cars after mainland authorities imposed a ban on right-hand-drive vehicles.

The number of stolen vehicles - cars, motorcycles and goods vehicles - increased 11.2 per cent to 2,097 between January and September this year from 1,885 in the same period last year.

Private cars accounted for 63.2 per cent of the missing vehicles, while 25.4 per cent were goods vehicles and 9.4 per cent motorcycles.

Yuen Long is the worst place for car thefts, followed by Tai Po and Sha Tin. 'Many stolen cars are parked in remote and quiet areas. We've stepped up patrols in these areas,' Senior Inspector Chiang said.

Graphic: VEHXGET