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commission should probe $80 million+ car thefts

Media release

October 31, 2008

Organised crime commission should probe $80 million+ car theft racket

A world leading anti-crime technology company has welcomed a Government proposal to launch a commission of inquiry into organised crime.

DataDot Technology says it hopes the inquiry, announced this week by Police Minister Annette King "as a means of establishing the extent of gang involvement in organised crime and ways to stamp these out", will also focus on organised car theft which is costing New Zealanders more than $10 million a year.

DataDot New Zealand's Managing Director, David Lumsden, says organised car theft gangs are involved in a major and sophisticated racket, stealing and immediately stripping thousands of vehicles for resale as parts or rebirthing.

The Justice Department estimates 30 to 40% of stolen vehicles are never recovered.

According to the latest Police crime statistics 19,743 vehicles were stolen in the year to June 30. Only 4,172 cases were resolved by police. Some 5900 to 7897 - with a value of up to $10.2 million a year - will never be recovered.

The Government planned to introduce a programme called Whole of Vehicle Marking (WOVM) where thousands of microdots are sprayed onto every newly registered vehicle. Each dot, the size of a grain of sand, carries a vehicle's unique identification number (VIN). Thieves find it almost impossible or uneconomic to locate and remove all the unique dots.

Implementation of the anti-crime initiative is being held up in the High Court by the Motor Industry Association which opposes the idea.

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WOVM, using DataDots over the past 6.5 years in Australia has seen the rate of stolen-unrecovered thefts for BMW and HSV decline by 76% and 84% respectively, and over 5.25 years for Subaru it has fallen by 86%, according to a controlled study conducted by Australia's National Vehicle Theft Reduction Council.

The huge drop in unrecovered theft of marked vehicles is not attributable to the introduction of immobilizers. All three brands had immobilizers in the study's marked and unmarked control groups.

In New Zealand, the use of DataDots on all new Subaru's since late 2002 has seen a dramatic reduction in theft of New Zealand new vehicles, as thieves shift attention to older unmarked models, Mr Lumsden says.

"This shift was proven in Australia, where BMW started marking vehicles and Police reported an immediate spike in the theft of Mercedes Benz."

"New Zealand motorists are victims of a multi-million dollar organised crime business which sees their cars chopped up and sold for parts or rebirthed. The commission should add this aspect of organised crime activity to its agenda," Mr Lumsden says.

Organized crime is responsible every 10 years for $70 to $100 million in car theft. A thorough probe will confirm the right policies to help wipe most of this out. The WOVM initiative could cut it by 80% over 10 years.

"That will lead to a drop in vehicle insurance costs - boost detection and prosecutions of those running the 'chop shops', and free up police time to fight other crime," Mr Lumsden says.


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