Crime Trends

Illegal Chop Shops Dramatically On The Rise In 2023

Car thieves increasingly stealing vehicles for their parts to sell on for vast profits

In the first six months of 2023, joint operations between stolen vehicle recovery expert Tracker Network (UK) and U.K. police forces have uncovered 34 illegal ‘chop shops’ nationwide. This compares to an annual total of 32 for 2022. The locations of these chop shops have been uncovered a result of Tracker’s unique combination of VHF with GPS/GSM technology covertly fitted to stolen vehicles, leading police directly to them. Not only have significant numbers of Tracker installed vehicles been recovered from these sites, but hundreds of other stolen vehicles and equipment worth millions of pounds, resulting in multiple arrests.

“The alarming increase in the number of chop shops largely reflects a rise in demand for good quality used parts in recent years, partly due to continued new part supply chain delays. However, the cost-of-living crisis has also fuelled illegal activities,” explains Clive Wain, Head of Police Liaison at Tracker. “In addition, with the production of the Ford Fiesta finishing in July 2023 - the most-owned car in Britain with over 1.5 million licenced models on our roads and the U.K’s 10th most popular car - a massive second-hand parts market has been created because new parts for these vehicles are also no longer being produced. Criminals have been quick to jump on this opportunity, lucratively selling on stolen Ford Fiesta parts on the black-market.”

Essex, which boasts several key ports providing international trade, is the ‘chop shop’ epicentre in the U.K. followed closely by Greater London and Kent, both which border with Essex and then West Midlands. Continues Clive Wain, “Essex has always been, and continues to be, the U.K.’s chop shop hot spot, and it comes as no surprise that London, in particular East London, and Kent feature in the top 5 areas, given the proximity of these counties to shipping ports. Thieves often look to ship stolen cars or its parts overseas in containers to places like the Middle East and Africa where they can be sold for two or three times more than they would cost in the U.K.”

Tracker, which celebrates its 30th anniversary in leading the way in stolen vehicle recovery this year, is the only provider offering motorists vehicle tracking systems that are supported nationwide by U.K. police forces. Furthermore, its VHF with GPS/GSM technology makes its units immune to jamming. Working like an electronic homing device, Tracker devices boast a covert transmitter hidden in one of several dozen places around the vehicle, with no visible aerial. With a 95% success rate of recovering stolen vehicles, Tracker is a superior security defence against determined thieves.

Clive Wain concludes, We work closely with the police daily to find and shut down illegal chop shops, but regrettably, these ‘businesses’ are so profitable and operations so slick that as soon as one is closed, another pops up to replace it. However, by acting together, the police, Tracker and our community of customers, we can continue to disrupt organised criminal gangs and bring them to justice.”


Tracker’s top tips for vehicle security

  • Protect your key fob: Keyless car theft works through a relay-style electronic device tricking your key fob signal into thinking the key is near to the car and then the device can assume all key fob power. To prevent this, keep the key – and the spare too - away from where the vehicle is kept when not in use, and block the signal by keeping the key fob in a closed tin or faraday bag.
  • Switch off and lock up: Never leave your car running idle and unattended, even when defrosting windscreens and windows on a cold morning.
  • Make life difficult: Fit security posts or a substantial gate if parking on your drive, physical barriers will make thieves think twice.
  • Don’t advertise your stuff: Never leave your belongings on show, lock them in the boot or take them with you.
  • Keep paperwork indoors – Don’t store car documents or spare keys inside the car as it makes it easier for thieves to sell it on.
  • Plan for the worst: Take car security measures to protect your car from being stolen in the first place, such as installing security lighting where you park your car and using a steering wheel lock. If criminals find a way to steal your car, having a vehicle tracker fitted can help the authorities to recover your vehicle.