AN increase in vehicle thefts in Nelson Mandela Bay of 9% over the past six months has prompted police to launch clampdown operations throughout the city. Last week, about 50 cars were stolen in the metro.
Yesterday police investigators from the vehicle theft branch identified Walmer, Humewood and Algoa Park as the vehicle theft hotspots.
This is a shift from last month where Newton Park and North End were the most targeted by thieves.
According to detectives, the most commonly stolen vehicles included Toyota Conquests, Mazda 323s and Ford Lasers. Also at the top of the list are all types of bakkies, which police said were generally retrieved after being used in robberies.
Earlier this week police raided an illegal chop- shop in Soweto-on-Sea where they confiscated seven stolen cars being stripped for parts.
From January to November last year, more than 230 vehicle thieves were arrested and about 600 stolen vehicles recovered in the Bay area alone.
Last year the vehicle theft unit probed a series of syndicates transporting stolen vehicles from the Bay to Mthatha.
According to officers linked to the specialist branch, it is believed the syndicates were still active in the Bay, but had down-scaled their operations. "Some of the vehicles have been recovered in Mthatha and [elsewhere in the] Transkei, leading us to believe that the group is still active,” said one of the investigators.
"We, however, have made a series of arrests, but the problem is these are massive networks who have lots of runners working for them. You arrest one, but more just get recruited. To get to the top dogs is also difficult as they keep their hands clean.”
Police spokeswoman Captain Sandra Janse van Rensburg said vehicle theft syndicates stole cars mainly for three reasons.
"The vehicles are stolen to either commit other crimes like robberies and cash-in-transit heists, or taken to dealers who strip the cars and sell them as second hand parts,” she said.
"Also vehicles are re-registered and sold to the buyer at a cheaper price.”
Janse van Rensburg said that crime trends over the past six months showed older models of vehicles were the main target as they tended not to have tracking devices installed.
"They also target newer models, but just not as frequently,” she said.
Various projects to curb vehicle theft in the Bay were being launched in an attempt to catch the culprits. "This includes increasing police visibility in problematic suburbs, increasing random road- blocks as well as allocating the vehicle theft unit members to certain shifts and putting them on 24-hour standby,” Janse van Rensburg said.