Sharp fall in theft of luxury cars
THE monthly rate of luxury car thefts has fallen sharply, with fewer than 10 vehicles stolen in November, down from an average of 300 in the early months of the year.
Cars stolen last month included two Mercedes-Benz, three BMWs and two Honda Accords, with the tally described by police as the lowest rate of car theft in the territory ''in recent memory''.
However, the downturn appears short-lived, with police reporting 12 luxury cars stolen so far this month, seven of them Mercedes.
Less than a year ago, 100 of these luxury German cars disappeared every month.
By October - during which six Mercedes went missing - just over 500 of the cars had been stolen in the previous nine months, out of a total of more than 3,700 missing vehicles. Chinese authorities have returned 24 stolen Mercedes this year.
Last year the German car was by far the most popular model with crime syndicates - and potential Chinese buyers - with 1,025 Mercedes being stolen out of a total of 6,916 vehicles.
In 1991 a total of 6,352 vehicles were stolen, of which 244 were Mercedes.
Recent weeks have been by far the most successful anti-smuggling period, on both sides of the border, since luxury car theft became the vogue for organised crime gangs in the late 1980s.
Head of the Anti-Smuggling Task Force (ASTF), Senior Superintendent Laurie Poots, said it was the first time since the unit was formed in February 1991 that so few Mercedes had been stolen.
''November was an exceptionally good month for us,'' he said, after the ''kill'' on Wednesday night, when a joint taskforce operation seized a four-engined tai fei, as well as a barge with 18 cars on board. They arrested 10 men.
Superintendent Poots believes co-operation between the ASTF, the Organised Crime and Triad Bureau, the military, Government Flying Service and China's Public Security Bureau (PSB) is responsible for the drop in smuggling activity.
But he cautiously added: ''We take one step forward and [the syndicates] change tactics.'' Acting on information from their Hong Kong counterparts, PSB officials raided a smugglers' village near Daya Bay on the mainland in October and seized 23 multi-engined tai feis, the smugglers' favourite vessel for transporting cars from Hong Kong.
Superintendent Poots said anti-smuggling operations were still running nightly.