Car cloning on the rise

Toyota, Honda, Mitsubishi most commonly targeted, say cops

BY RACQUEL PORTER Observer staff reporter

Sunday, January 10, 2016

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CAR stealing in Jamaica has expanded beyond scrapping for parts to a multimillion-dollar car-cloning operation that involves government workers and auto parts dealers, the Jamaica Observer has been informed.

And, according to a well-placed police source, there has been a surge in the racket over the past year, with an increasing number of cars being found to share the same chassis number, licence plate, title, registration number, fitness and licence disc numbers.

"People who have an old vehicle, or an old vehicle giving problem, steal a new vehicle and convert it to their old vehicle via the chassis number and engine number," the source told the Observer.

"At times they purchase a crashed vehicle that has been written off by an insurance company, then steal a new vehicle and convert it to the vehicle that is crashed to legitimise the vehicle."

He further explained: "There are times when vehicles are stolen and that vehicle that is stolen takes on the exact appearance, colour, chassis number, engine number, and same registration plate number of a vehicle that is up and running in another parish. These vehicles are normally used as taxis."

Another police source added that the practice has become more frequent in St Catherine, Mandeville, St Ann, and St James.

The source alleged that tax office workers, auto parts dealers, licence plate makers, and mechanics are among those facilitating the practice.

"There is a person selling auto parts now who has never had a shipment come through the wharf," the source said.

Last October the police established the Stolen Motor Vehicle Apprehension Recovery Team (SMART) to put a lid on the situation. The team has so far recovered 14 stolen motor vehicles and arrested and charged 16 people.

A total of 586 motor vehicles — including cars, trucks, buses, and bikes — were reported stolen in 2015, compared to 507 in 2014. Toyota Axion, Nissan Tiida, Toyota Hiace, Toyota Townace, Mitsubishi and Honda motor cars in grey, white and silver are the makes that have been featuring the most in the cloning.

Asked how vehicle owners can protect themselves, one of the sources said car security systems do little to deter criminals, and added that prospective car owners and police officers who are not aware of the racket are easily fooled.

"To how good they are at it, kill switch and alarms do not prevent them as long as they can find the switch," the source said.

"The average police will stop your vehicle and just inspect documents and you go. It is hard to detect, in the night, that the chassis numbers that are not aligned. Everything would be intact and updated so they will let you go. Each company’s chassis number position is different; an ordinary man would not know how to detect it," the said.

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