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Breaking & entry is still the most common method of car theft
Breaking & entry is still a common method of car theft
  Peugeots: Often stolen in London & shipped to West Africa
Peugeots: Often stolen in London & shipped to West Africa
  Swapping number plates can change a car's identity
Swapping number plates can change a car's identity
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    manwuc01Lifting the bonnet
Stalling car theft

According to Interpol, illicit trafficking of vehicles generates an estimated $19 billion of criminal earnings worldwide every year.

For all the effort car manufacturers have made to increase car security with devices such as infrared locking and immobilisers, the most common method of car theft now is for criminals to steal the keys to the car.

After discreetly identifying the car, thieves drive away without any alarms going off or having to smash toughen glass windows.

Once the vehicle has been stolen, the issue is to pass the car off as a legal vehicle.

In West African states such as Sierra Leone a popular vehicle is an ageing Peugeot 405 estate. Many of these cars have been stolen from London.

Vehicles are often taken to workshops where the roof is removed by chopping just above the doors. Glass from the windows is carefully stacked in to the boot, the headlights are turned inside out, and external mirrors are stored in the upholstery of the car.

Around 13 cars are then packed in to a large container either bonnet or tail down and shipped from Tilbury Port bound for Sierra Leone where they are welded back together and sold on.

With motor vehicles in particular illegal trade routes are more common than others. Cars stolen in Britain are often traced to countries in Africa while those stolen in Germany or the Czech Republic may well be sold in Poland or Russia.

New technology is critical to tracking stolen cars. A car's identity can be quickly transmitted to police forces and customs in neighbouring countries.

In the Czech Republic, the records only match current plates, and as there is no system for write-offs, number plates can be easily traded and forged.

This technological deficiency has led to many cars being stolen by placing old plates over the new and traded to clients in Poland and Russia.

So frustrated are detectives that they often joke that the Polish Tourist Board should publish a poster showing an area of beautiful countryside and the caption: "Come to Poland, your car's already here!"

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