A specialist police unit just concluded a banner year in which their task force identified and recovered 737 stolen cars worth over 30 million dollars.
The Essex-based Stolen Vehicle Intelligence Unit (SVIU) specializes in recovering stolen vehicles and using evidence gathered during their retrieval to inform future searches of missing cars.
The team has retrieved more than £1 million, ($1.28 million) of vehicles in the final week of December alone, after intercepting shipping containers hiding a Ferrari, Rolls-Royce, and Range Rover belonging to Premier League soccer players.
Once a car is taken, thieves may look to quickly sell it on—even for way under the market value—strip it for parts, or ship either the whole car or parts of the car to areas including the Middle East and Africa. There, the vehicles can be sold for two or three times more than they would cost in the UK.
Officers Phil Pentelow and Paul Gerrish, referred to in press reports by their British policing titles “Police Constable (PC)” said that it isn’t just handsomely-paid athletes being targeted by carjackers, but everyday Britons as well.
“We are seeing a trend at the moment of thieves targeting family cars, Hyundais, Toyotas, Lexuses, and pushing them back out into the market with false identities. These are the vehicles that make a huge difference to people’s daily lives,” said Officer Gerrish.
“It’s very satisfying when we return a car to a family who need it to drive the children to school, or we take a van back to someone who relies on it for their job.”
Since the start of 2021, the team has recovered or identified more than 1,800 vehicles worth over $60 million, with 626 cars being recovered in 2022 a 30% increase over 2021.
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“We are continuing to dismantle the organized criminal networks behind these thefts,” said Gerrish proudly. “We’ve tracked down a record number of vehicles in the past year and recently we’ve had three very big jobs where we’ve recovered huge hauls of cars.”
In 2022, Pentelow, Gerrish, and their analytics partner Hannah Gerrish, who is also part of the team, were presented with awards by the International Association of Auto Theft Investigators for their ‘outstanding contribution in the fight against vehicle crime,’ and have built up such a CV that luxury manufacturers like Mercedes and Jaguar are beginning to work with the SVIU on how they can improve security and tracking on their models.
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Another big part of the SVIU’s work is the identification and dismantling of illegal chop shops, where cars are stripped or have their identification changed. The SVIU have closed down over 100 such grey and black market garages like this since the team’s inception.
“Our work stretches beyond recovering individual stolen cars and encompasses the wider network of criminality behind each theft,” said Gerrish. “We aim to make this a hostile county for car thieves to operate in.
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