IN the first half of this year, some 718 vehicles were reported stolen.
This was revealed by Insp Lloyd Lazarus of the Stolen Vehicles Unit at a media conference at the police headquarters in Port of Spain on Thursday.
The figure from January-June included 504 vehicles subject to larceny, and 214 subject to robbery – the latter often at gunpoint, he added.
Of the 718 vehicles, some 268 were recovered which, Lazarus said, was "close to 50 percent."
He listed the types of cars most often targeted by thieves.
These are the Toyota Aqua (113), Nissan AD Wagon (70), Nissan B14 (37) and Toyota Fielder (35.) Lazarus said the main police divisions for vehicle thefts were Northern (223), Central (136), North Eastern (98) and Southern (83.)
"These vehicles are generally targeted because of a couple of things. One, these vehicles have low to no security features, so it makes it easy for the perpetrators to steal these vehicles.
"They are also vehicles that can be easily cloned. We have persons who would have been involved in serious accidents where their vehicle would have been written off and they will sell it to someone as scrap. The perpetrator and his friends will now steal a vehicle and transfer the chassis number onto another vehicle that will mirror the image of the one that was originally written off in the accident."
He said thefts were facilitated by the large numbers of these types of targeted vehicles now on the roads, with pale-coloured vehicles being easier to disguise than others.
Lazarus urged the public to safeguard their vehicles by not leaving them unattended with the keys in the ignition or engine running, and by etching the vehicle number on the window or at a secret spot inside.
Snr Supt Rishi Singh of the Port of Spain CID said few or no cases of vehicle theft had occurred when drivers use official car parks in the capital.
Lazarus said most robberies of vehicles took place at gunpoint.
On a positive note, he said among the vehicles eventually recovered by the police, most were intact rather than dismantled into parts.
Asked about the existence of places known to sell car parts from stolen vehicles, Lazarus replied by advising drivers to etch the chassis number onto their vehicle.
He later told Newsday that most stolen vehicles were sold to unsuspecting buyers, with this dishonesty facilitated by delays in registration at the Licensing Office as imposed on buyers for several years while they were still paying instalments on a work-to-buy scheme.
"You could only do the transfer when you are finished paying off for the vehicle," he explained of the scheme.
“After two years of paying, you could find out it is a stolen vehicle."
Lazarus recalled someone owning a car for ten years, only to then find out it was stolen property.
Some stolen vehicles were used to commit criminal acts, while others were used as sources of spare parts, Lazarus added.
After a lull during the pandemic, Lazarus said TT had seen an increase in vehicle thefts since last year, but also pointed to an increase in arrests of offenders by the police.
He said the PoS had seen a 400 per cent increase in arrests for vehicle thefts, from two individuals in the first half of last year, to ten people charged so far this year.
Lazarus reckoned other police divisions would have seen similar figures.