Crime Trends

Tracker warns drivers of new Car Cannibalism trend

Thieves are increasingly stripping parts from cars parked on driveways or in public car parks

In recent weeks, alarming reports of a rise in a new trend in car crime have been making headlines - car cannibalisation.  Vehicles are being stripped for parts wherever they are parked, rather than being stolen and dismantled at another location. This technique is fast, does not rely on the criminals transporting or storing vehicles, and is also harder to protect against. Stolen vehicle recovery expert Tracker Network U.K. Ltd, is urging car owners to be aware of the new trend and associated risks as it becomes more prominent across the country.

“When the pandemic slammed on the brakes on new car manufacturing, the U.K. saw a surge in demand for used cars and with this a worrying increase in thefts of older vehicles and parts,” explains Clive Wain, vehicle theft expert and Head of Police Liaison at Tracker. “An influx of chop shops – illegal body shops used to illicitly disassemble stolen motor vehicles so their parts can be sold on – began appearing nationwide to support car-theft rings and organised crime gangs. This continues to be a significant concern for the police and car owners. This year to date, the number of illegal chop shops we have helped U.K. police forces uncover has more than doubled compared with the whole of 2022.

“With this new trend of car cannibalisation running alongside the rise of chop shops, the need to ramp up vehicle security has never been more important. Whether it happens inside illegal chop shops or at the side of the road, criminals are removing headlights, bumpers, batteries, engines, steering wheels and other high value car parts ready to be sold for cash or on the black market.  Criminals are working 24/7 to steal cars for their parts to then sell-on to criminal networks, not only in the U.K. but also in Europe, Middle East and Africa. The ongoing cost-of-living crisis is only adding to demand for cheaper parts and motivation of criminals to steal sought-after parts to meet market demand. Drivers must do all they can to deter criminals from targeting their car.”

Tracker’s top tips to protect against car cannibalism

  • Stay in the light: Don’t park in unlit areas, as the darkness gives thieves valuable cover. If the place where you park at home is unlit, install motion-activated security lights to ensure thieves will be visible if they approach your car.
  • Invest in a dashcam or visible CCTV: Even a video doorbell that covers the car while parked on the drive will deter thieves as their actions will be recorded. Many dashcams include a parking mode feature to begin recording in the event of an impact or movement while the ignition is off.
  • Mark parts:  Etch parts that can be stolen with the vehicle's registration plate. Although it’s  unlikely that stolen parts will be recovered, visible markings could actually deter a thief from stealing components.
  • Use an alarm: Car alarms may not stop a thief stealing parts, or damaging the vehicle, but should stop them hanging around to remove multiple parts. If your car does not already have an alarm fitted, you can have one fitted. It should detect movement, not just the doors being opened or windows smashed, in case the vehicle is lifted to allow access to wheels or parts under the vehicle.
  • 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 to ensure your vehicle doesn’t become an attractive target to an opportunistic passing thief.