KUALA LUMPUR: Three minutes – that is all it takes for a professional car thief to steal your car.
And within 30 minutes that car can be stripped and sold as spare parts, or may end up being shipped out of the country to as far as South Africa or New Zealand.
The syndicates involved have become so good that they are using legal means to export these Malaysian-owned cars.
According to sources, various models of Proton and Perodua vehicles have been found in Thailand and Indonesia even though these national cars were not exported there.
“These syndicates have managed to export our national cars when the manufacturers themselves have yet to do so,” said an insurance analyst.
It is not just cars that get stolen – vehicle theft is big business in Malaysia, where an average of eight vehicles are stolen every hour.
For the first six months of this year, a total of 35,888 vehicles were stolen nationwide leading to a whopping RM357mil in losses. Last year, 64,274 cases were reported stolen with losses amounting to RM753mil.
For the first six months of the year, two hundred vehicles were reported stolen nationwide every day with motorcycle thefts topping the list at 28,096 cases.
This was followed by car and van/lorry thefts – 4,756 and 3,036 cases respectively.
Federal CID principal assistant director for intelligence Asst Comm Abdul Halim Abdullah said the crime index was considered high because of vehicle thefts.
“Vehicle thefts contributed 41% and 45% to the country’s overall crime index last year and the first half of this year respectively,” he said in an interview.
According to him, syndicate members generally use land and sea routes to smuggle stolen vehicles from Malaysia to neighbouring countries and other parts of the world.
“The two ports most often used to ship out stolen vehicles are Port Klang and Tanjung Pelepas Port.
“And the coastal areas of Port Dickson and Banting are the most common exit points for smuggling motorcycles by boat to Indonesia,” he said.
He added that cars were also driven into Thailand via the northern states, and to Singapore, from which many were then shipped to Sarawak and various parts of Indone-sia.
On the operations of vehicle theft syndicates, ACP Abdul Halim said: “It only takes them 30 seconds to steal a motorcycle, three to five minutes to steal a car, even if it has a steering lock, and 30 minutes to cannibalise a car.”
Police intelligence, he said, had revealed that all major syndicates were well financed, with members often driving stolen vehicles straight to the warehouses after a theft.
“At the warehouse, they may decide to paint the vehicle as well as alter the chassis number and registration before driving the ‘new’ vehicle to the border.
“Other vehicles are shipped out in containers with the help of forwarding companies,” he said.
ACP Abdul Halim noted that the large number of vehicle thefts was due to the high demand for stolen vehicles both locally and in certain countries such as Thailand, Indonesia and Singapore.
Citing an example, he said: “The market value for a new Mercedes Benz is above RM300,000 but syndicate members normally sell this car for as low as RM50,000.”
He added that vehicles stolen in states near the borders were often driven out of the country immediately.
“If a vehicle theft is reported to the police a few hours after the actual crime, how are we going to send an alert to the border? By then, the vehicle is already out of the country,” he said.
It was also difficult, he said, to prevent vehicles from being shipped out in containers
“For the moment, there is no method that enables Customs officers to inspect each and every container,” he said.
On efforts made to recover stolen vehicles, he said once they had been smuggled out of the country, the police had little success due to lack of cooperation from their foreigner counterparts.
The Star, 24 September 2005