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Old 5th August 2008, 10:36   #1
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Default Into the lucrative world of vehicle thefts

a news article from DNA : More at DNA - Mumbai - Into the lucrative world of vehicle thefts - Daily News & Analysis

The tracing of cars, reportedly used in the Ahmedabad serial blasts, to Navi Mumbai has brought into focus the fastest-growing illegal enterprise in the country

Car theft is fast emerging as the fastest-growing illegal enterprise in the country. Small and mid-sized cars stolen from Delhi and towns in the NCR region are sold off in the North Eastern states and Nepal while the high-end cars picked up from the capital find their way to buyers as far as Mumbai, Bangalore and Chennai. Similarly, vehicles stolen in Mumbai, Pune, Nagpur, Bangalore and Hyderabad are disposed off in northern states.
According to grey market estimates, the stolen car industry in India could be generating a turnover of close to Rs200 crore, making automobile thefts one of the most lucrative “career” options for many adventure and quick money. And despite the obvious risks, chances of anyone landing up in prison are rather slim.
“Five years ago, car thieves would steal whatever cars they could lay their hands on. Today a thief steals on demand,” says a senior police officer. Theft on demand, the official says, is the latest buzzword in the stolen car market. Instead of a thief finding a buyer, the process is reversed and a buyer seeks out a thief.
The most disturbing trend according to police officers in major metros is the rising ‘on demand’ theft of high-end vehicles which often makes tracing the stolen car a tedious job for the police.
The trend first came to light two years ago when the Bangalore police arrested a gang of car thieves who disclosed that they were specialists in stealing high end cars that were disposed off specifically in Mumbai. “In many instances of car theft, the thieves told the police that they had been instructed to pick up certain high end models only --- Scorpio, high end cars made by Hyundai and the Suzuki SX4,” an official of the bangalore police told DNA. The lack of co-ordination between the RTOs in various states is a major boost to the auto thieves who find it easy to create a totally different identity of a stolen car in a new city.
According to the national crime records Bureau, more than 10,000 motor vehicles were stolen from Maharastra in 2006, the highest in the country. (Currently the NCRB does not have records beyond 2006). Every year almost 1300 cars are stolen from Mumbai are not even half of them are recovered.
This year till July, 654 cars had been stolen with most of the thefts taking place in the western suburban stretch from Bandra to Andheri. (see box). Police officers in the city told DNA that more cars were stolen from the suburbs compared to south Mumbai because the suburbs have seen a boom in malls and multiplexes in the last few years which has also created public parking space for hundreds of cars.
The countrywide scope of the racket ensures that the police recover only a small percentage of the stolen booty. Till July this year, the Mumbai police was able to trace only 497 stolen cars. The number of untraced cars during the same time was three times more: 1590.
“Stealing a car is one of the easiest crimes to commit. The law makes no difference between the theft of a car or Rs100 from someone’s wallet,” said a senior Mumbai police officer, requesting anonymity. “The maximum punishment one can get is three years. But convictions are very hard to come by in car theft cases as seldom are we able to
recover the cars and prove an auto lifter’s guilt beyond reasonable doubt,” he adds.
“The statistics show that least cars are stolen from South Mumbai. But this does not mean that residents of South Mumbai are not victims of car theft. A south Mumbai resident often loses his car when he parks it in a public parking in the suburbs where the thieves find the going easy,” says a Mumbai police official.
Modus operandi
Though the vehicle theft is one of the most common crimes in the city, the vehicle thieves works round the clock to come up with new modus-operandi (MO) to steal vehicles. The city crime branch officials recently came across some of the unique MOs used by the vehicle thieves.

The city crime branch officials recently arrested a gang, including garage workers specialised in stealing vehicles. “If a person gave his vehicle for repair in a garage, the garage guys would make duplicate keys of the vehicle. After a wait of over a month they would steal the said repaired vehicles,” said a senior crime branch official requesting anonymity.

There was a time when stealing a Maruti 800 meant getting any Maruti key to open up any car made by the manufacturer. Things began changing somewhat in the mid-90s when getting a duplicate key was very important. This was achieved by getting friendly with a parking lot attendant, borrowing his set of keys for 20 minutes, rushing to a duplicator for a copy and wait for the right time to steal someone’s car with their own key from bang outside their house.

Currently the RFID and GSM technology based security systems pose the biggest challenge to an auto lifter. An RFID (radio frequency identification device) makes it almost impossible for a thief to steal a car as the fuel and ignition of the car won’t work unless the RFID remote is used.

The same is the case with a GSM technology-based system that embeds a SIM card in the car which makes three parallel calls (one to you, one to the cops and a third to anyone you wish) as soon as someone touches the car or tries to open it.

“It’s not impossible to break into a car with a GSM or an RFID based security system, but it’s certainly difficult,” says a senior police officer.

A unique modus, which the police came across, was of a locksmith as a “key” member of the gang. “The gang used to move in car in the suburbs with a duplicate locksmith. As soon as the car was identified, the locksmith was put on the job,” said the official adding that the gang has been arrested by the crime branch.

The police have also caught a gang, who were specialised in tampering the chassis and engine number of stolen vehicles. “The gang members used to purchase the accident borne vehicles from the scrap dealers. They would then use the chassis and engine number of that vehicle for the newly stolen vehicles,” said the officer.

Where’s your stolen car now?

According to the officials of Anti-Motor Vehicle Theft Cell (AMVTC) of the city crime branch, vehicles are mostly robbed from the parking lots in the city and are being sold in different parts of the country.

Some of the places according to AMVTC, where the stolen city cars are mostly sold are Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Uttaranchal, Nagaland, Mizoram and Jharkhand. The most wanted cars which are stolen and are in demand outside Maharashtra are Santro, Zen, Innova, Tavera, Qualis, Scorpio and Bolero, while Hero Honda and Pulsar are amongst the two wheelers which are mostly stolen.

“It has been found that most of the robbers involved in the business of vehicle thefts are from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar and the reason for this is that at these places, the vehicles are easily sold without any botheration,” said senior police inspector Abdul Rauf Shaikh, AMVTC.

When asked about the reason that the cars are being stolen and sold in the above mentioned places, Shaikh said “The Regional Transport Offices (RTO) outside Mumbai are not as alert as it is in Mumbai, as far as the vehicles are concerned. Especially in small districts and villages people do not even bother about the registration of the vehicles and purchase it since it is available on the low cost. Also the documents of the vehicles are easily made there, without much legal problem.”
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Old 5th August 2008, 10:46   #2
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I wonder how Maruti's famed iCATS technology helps in this case.
Originally Posted by madan80 View Post
This was achieved by getting friendly with a parking lot attendant, borrowing his set of keys for 20 minutes, rushing to a duplicator for a copy and wait for the right time to steal someone’s car with their own key from bang outside their house.
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Old 5th August 2008, 10:55   #3
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iCATS wasn't there in the 90s. The paragraph which you have incompletely quoted talks about the 90s.

You know what they say about the Honda City - its not a steal at that price

(Sorry for taking a dig but I couldn't resist)
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Old 5th August 2008, 14:45   #4
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RFID was interesting. Can anyone enlighten us on this?

Great topic. One thing which scared me is the names of the wanted cars!! Well we got to find a way to prevent a re regn being done on the vehicle
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