Challenges in shipping during the covid19 pandemic may be one of the contributing factors to the growth of the stolen-vehicle and car-parts trade, senior police say.
During the weekly media briefing at the police administration building, Sackville Street, Port of Spain, on Thursday morning, ACP in charge of the criminal division Kent Ghisyawan said while he could not put a specific dollar value on the local stolen-vehicle network, it was a profitable activity.
He said in addition to the theft of entire cars, criminals were adapting to avoid arrest by abandoning cars with GPS tracking devices installed and stealing only a few components to be sold.
Ghisyawan suspected this might be due in part to disruptions in supply chains, which led to an increase in the price of car parts.
"The people involved, they are making a huge profit, because sometimes you may find a new vehicle outfitted with GPS being stolen. When it is found a fender, a bumper or a wing mirror alone may be missing because that part is unavailable.
"The car thieves are aware that with GPS, the vehicle would be recovered in a short time, so they just steal the vehicle, take the part and leave the vehicle at a location where it can be recovered.
"So the market is growing. It is profitable, so people are getting involved in it, and the police, especially the Stolen Vehicles Unit, their function is to reduce that demand for stolen parts by stemming the (number) of vehicles that are being stolen and different strategies are being employed nationwide in an effort to curb the trade."
Despite this, Ghisyawan said the Stolen Vehicles Squad continued to work with other agencies in and out of the police service to clamp down on car theft.
Referring to instances when licence plates from stolen cars were put on other vehicles used to commit crimes, Ghisyawan said there was strong collaboration between divisional police and the Stolen Vehicles Unit to find the legitimate owners.
"When there is a report of a vehicle being involved in a shooting, a robbery or even a murder, and the licence plate doesn't reconcile with the vehicle in question, we will broadcast that over our communication systems. So all other divisions will be checking on their database to see if this vehicle was involved in any sort of crime in their division.
"Sometimes vehicles are stolen unknown to the owner, so we may have to go and conduct further enquiries to find out where the vehicle was parked, look for CCTV coverage and so on, in an effort to identify the perpetrators of that particular crime.
"So we are connecting the dots, division by division, branches and sections. We are in constant communication and we have a chat where anytime a crime occurs, we put the facts out there so that all commanders are aware of what's going on at all times."
He added that while car thieves used different methods of trapping vehicles, data would guide police on which areas were in most need of patrols.