Car thefts hint at stolen parts trade

By Leonard Gildarie
Stabroek News
April 3, 2000

A recent spate of car thefts could be an indication that there is an organised and very ready market for stolen auto parts.

This was the opinion of attorney-at-law Sanjeev Datadin whose white Toyota Corona is still missing after it was stolen two Sundays ago.

Datadin told Stabroek News that the police have not found "hide nor hair" of his car PEE 9650 and he was of the opinion that there is an organised gang of car thieves, out there, operating around the city. This claim, he said, was fuelled by the reported increased number of persons placed before the courts for the theft of cars and auto parts. He said the mere fact that the vehicles were stolen and stripped was testimony that the parts had to be sold to someone. "Someone had to be buying the parts. The prevalence of the car incidents strongly suggest someone is taking the parts off the thieves." The attorney, who is offering a reward for the return of his car, pointed out that the persons involved would not be stealing the parts unless a few dishonest businessmen were willing to "assist by receiving the stolen property."

Three persons were charged with offences related to the theft of cars over the past month or so. A police source disclosed that, over the past month, the police have received an increased number of reports on the theft of cars. However, this newspaper was unable confirm from the police, the total number of thefts reported for this period and whether the vehicles stolen were recovered. When contacted, Deputy Commissioner of Police Floyd McDonald said that he is going to issue a statement. The police, based on a request from this newspaper, are also perusing their records to ascertain the statistics.

On February 22, Oscar Clarke, General Secretary of the People's National Congress (PNC) discovered his car missing from where it was parked on Croal Street. It was found the next day in the La Penitence area, minus its battery and others articles.

On March 5, a car belonging to Chadwick Pillay, of Queenstown was stolen from the home of one of his friends. A deportee of Tucville, was charged and placed before the court after police cornered him on the East Bank Public Road.

A car belonging to another attorney, Camilla Edwards, was also stolen a few weeks ago while she was at the National Cultural Centre. Speaking with Stabroek News, the lawyer said that she went to the Link Show, parking her car outside. Upon her return, she discovered it missing. An anonymous call, the following day, led the police to the vehicle which was abandoned on Cane View Avenue, South Ruimveldt. The battery, stereo set, hydraulic jack and others articles were missing from the car.

Stabroek News understands that at the time of the thefts, the cars were all locked.

On March 3, a Buxton resident who allegedly tried to hijack a car was shot by a taxi-driver after he demanded the car keys and money. Four days later a Kingston man was caught after he allegedly attempted to escape with a $2.5 million car from the Action Tyre Service Centre.

A knowledgeable police source has indicated that although the thefts were probably isolated incidents, the conclusion is that the vehicles were stolen for the parts. In most cases the cars were discovered the next day, minus the parts.

The policeman said, there is now more evidence of increasing cases of thefts for the parts which has become a booming business with the phenomenal increase of vehicles being brought into the country. Two former 'trunkers' (people who break into cars), told this newspaper that the car thieves use skeleton keys illegally designed for certain types of cars. In most cases, the `trunkers' said, the thief would break the panel located under the steering column and use the live wire there to "jump-start" the vehicles. The vehicles in some cases would be taken to a secret "chop shop" or location where it would be stripped and later transferred to another point to be abandoned.

Although parts are shipped from abroad and sold by legitimate parts stores, there exists another kind of spares business where parts are salvaged from crashed or abandoned vehicles. In most cases, these businesses act as a "fence" for the stolen parts, sources said. Most consumers would prefer buying from these "illegal" parts places as the prices are considerably cheaper than the store parts.

A Georgetown spare parts dealer, who asked not to be named, said that he was aware of the existence of the "illegal" dealers who were reportedly buying the spares. He noted that with the rising number of vehicles in the country, car thefts would become more prevalent, providing a steady source to bandits.