Tuesday, 4 June 2019

Cracking down on 'big business' of crime gangs shipping stolen cars from port / Lorry driver jailed for theft of almost 3,000 PS4 Slim games consoles



Hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of stolen cars and vehicle parts have been found in containers at the Port of Felixstowe Picture: NaVCIS

Millions of pounds worth of stolen cars and parts are being prevented from leaving the country by a crime-fighting partnership at the Port of Felixstowe.

Hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of stolen cars and vehicle parts have been found in containers at the Port of Felixstowe  Picture: NaVCIS
A specialist officer has been in post since the end of November in an effort to disrupt organised crime and recover stolen vehicles.
Discoveries have included an estimated £183,000 of stolen vehicles, £95,000 of vehicles linked to finance theft and fraud, and two containers each carrying more than £250,000 of stripped parts.
The police officer - whose identity is withheld to protect his cover - is among a network of officers seconded from local forces to major ports across the country with the National Vehicle Crime Intelligence Service (NaVCIS).
Supported by private sector funding, the full-time ports field intelligence officer took on the role with 17 years' experience in local policing and Special Branch security, as well as a previous background in engineering.
Hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of stolen cars and vehicle parts have been found in containers at the Port of Felixstowe  Picture: NaVCIS
The national NaVCIS unit is hosted by Hampshire police to protect the UK from vehicle finance offences and associated organised crime.
The officer operating at Felixstowe said: "In my role, I try to identify stolen vehicles, plant and agricultural machinery, and to work closely with finance companies dealing with the issue of vehicles being bought on credit with fraudulent information and shipped out of the UK. 
"We also face a big problem, nationally, of vehicles being stolen and broken down for parts. In pockets of the country, we're seeing high value vehicles stripped down for parts in a few hours and then shipped out of the country. I recently identified a container with parts from 22 different vehicles, amounting to an approximate loss of vehicles worth in excess of £250,000.
"If I find a complete stolen car in a container, I can return it to the insurance company, but if I find vehicle parts, they may get returned to the insurance company and possibly end up being sold on for scrap."
Hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of stolen cars and vehicle parts have been found in containers at the Port of Felixstowe  Picture: NaVCIS
Last year saw a national estimated 2% increase in vehicle offences, according to the Crime Survey for England and Wales, largely due to a 9% increase in the category of 'theft or unauthorised taking of a motor vehicle'.
The AA said thieves were changing tactics from 'smash and grab' to 'bounce and roll' - or bouncing radio signals off keys to unlock the car and roll away.
Criminal gangs, it said, were using sophisticated devices to override security, alongside simple key theft, number plate theft, catalytic converter theft and stealing a car's identity by 'cloning'.
Tim Passmore, Suffolk Police and Crime Commissioner  Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN
He works closely with a number of agencies, including the port police, Border Force, National Crime Agency, US Customs and freight forwarders, said stolen vehicles and parts can end up anywhere in the world.
"Unfortunately, cars are a form of cash for criminals," he added. 
"This is a way for organised crime groups to launder money. It's quite an intricate process and we have to try to be one step ahead. You'd have to be naïve to believe criminals deal in one type of criminality. They do whatever they can to gain whatever they can. It's big business.
"It's not always as simple as a false number plate. Criminals will go to great lengths to change the identity of a vehicle.
Felixstowe is the sixth busiest container port in Europe  Picture: MIKE PAGE
"Anybody can be a victim. We've dealt with everything from Ford Fiestas to Range Rovers.
"Because insurance companies are liable to pay out, it's sometimes seen as a victimless crime, but it causes a great deal of stress and grief, especially if someone's home is burgled to get the car keys, or the car contains personal items.
"It has a knock-on impact for everyone because insurance premiums go up.
"I've spoken to victims who have been in tears due to the upset it causes them and their families.
"We're always going to be up against it, but we do what we can. Fortunately, the police and crime commissioner (PCC) pushed to have someone in place to assist with the fight. NaVCIS also assists the Norfolk and Suffolk roads policing unit to gain intelligence and inform the bigger picture, nationally."
PCC Tim Passmore said the role presented an opportunity to work with the private sector.
"Theft of high value motor vehicles is done by organised crime groups and Felixstowe is a major outlet for this activity," he added. "Having a specialist to gather intelligence and bring these criminals to justice is crucial and we've had some stellar results.
"It's an invaluable post to the police and public."

Lorry driver jailed for theft of almost 3,000 PS4 Slim games consoles





Christopher Champion, 41, of St Helens, Merseyside, has been jailed for eight years for his role in the theft of PS4 Slim consoles worth an estimated £769,000 Picture: SUFFOLK POLICE

A lorry driver has been jailed for eight years for his role in the "ambitious and audacious" theft of almost 3,000 PS4 Slim game consoles on their way to the Port of Felixstowe.

Christopher Champion, 41, of St Helens, Merseyside, was sentenced for theft and handling stolen goods at Ipswich Crown Court on Friday May 31.
He was sentenced alongside Robert Ratcliff, 47, of Wraysbury, Berkshire, Darren Brown, 37, of Leigh, Lancashire and Keith Williams, 45, of Bolton, who had all been convicted of handling stolen goods.
A total of 2,970 PS4 consoles, which were yet to be officially released, were stolen - worth an estimated £769,000.
Champion had picked up a container in Wellingborough and was told to travel non-stop to Felixstowe with no diversions.
Realising his cargo was of high value, Champion put into action a plan to steal them.
Judge David Goodin said: "Having arrived in Felixstowe you faked a puncture on your vehicle to avoid your pre-booked loading slot. This gave you time to get down to somewhere in Essex."There the container was unloaded all but a few boxes and you returned the by now near empty container to the dock.
"You used your technical experience, ability and knowledge to bypass a tachograph in order to disguise your movements."
The court heard Champion had played a "leading role" in the theft and had used 'burner phones' to hide his actions.
Judge Goodin said the theft was only noticed thanks to the port's new security procedures.
"Your container was automatically weighed as it was off-loaded and was vastly underweight," he said.
He said if it had not been for these measures, dock workers or other HGV drivers may have been blamed for the theft instead.
Judge Goodin handed Champion an eight year jail sentence - five and a half years for theft, two years for handling stolen goods and six months for breaching a suspended sentence, to run concurrently.
Radcliff was given three years imprisonment. Brown was jailed for two years, suspended for two years, a 26 week curfew, 35 days rehabilitation activity requirement and 240 hours of unpaid work. Williams also got a two year sentence, suspended for two years, a 26 week curfew, 10 days rehabilitation activity requirement and 180 hours of unpaid work.

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