Numerous roadblocks affecting police efforts to catch car thieves
Arthur Hall, Senior News Editor
With almost 1,400 motor vehicles reported stolen so far this year and only 380 recovered, head of the police Flying Squad, Senior Superintendent Cornwall 'Bigga' Ford, has admitted that it is a struggle for the cops to deal with this problem.
"We have a very active unit to deal with the issue, but honestly, it's a headache because stolen motor vehicles is a highly organised business involving a lot of cash," Ford told The Sunday Gleaner last week.
"A lot of people are involved in this scam, including officials who work in the industry. You have the insurance agents, the tax office people, and even the police. Just recently we stopped a policeman who was driving a stolen car," added Ford.
He said while the problem is not insurmountable, there are several factors preventing the police from putting away these car thieves.
Among the major factors the police have to deal with is the apathy from motorists, whose vehicles have been stolen, after they are reimbursed by the insurance company.
Ford noted that in many cases while the police will take six to nine months to recover the car and conduct their investigation, in most cases the insurance companies pay out to the motor vehicle owner long before the police probe is done.
"So the motorist will tell you that he has already been paid by the insurance company so he has no interest in going to court," noted Ford.
"We try to solve that by saying to the insurance company since you are now the owner and you have the original report you could come to court as the complainant but some courts accept this evidence while some don't and demand to hear from the owner.
"But the owner has no further interest. He is already paid by the insurance company and cannot see why he should come sit down in court day-in, day-out and the case is not being tried. Even if he comes to court once or twice, he will not come a third or fourth time," added Ford.
This inconsistency in the courts and the long delay in moving cases through the justice system are another of the problems facing the detectives who track stolen vehicles.
Ford pointed to a case where a man was found guilty of being in possession of five stolen cars and was fined $25,000 for each car.
"He just paid the fine and walked out the court laughing at us," charged Ford.
The veteran crime fighter noted that if the car is stolen and no changes are made to it the thief can be charged with only "driving away a motor vehicle without the owner's consent".
TIME FOR A CHANGE
"If he did not change anything on the vehicle it is not larceny ... in this 21st century that is a joke," charged Ford, as he argued that the police have been pushing for legislative changes for years.
Ford also pointed out that his unit does not have anywhere to store recovered stolen vehicles.
"We have said to the insurance companies, partner with us and find us a place where we can store these cars, fix it up, secure it while the investigation is being done, and you will benefit."
So far, there has been no indication from the companies if they will, even though for last year 907 vehicles were reported stolen to the insurance companies. This was slightly down from the 1,048 reported in 2011.