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WMP welcomes landmark salvage industry move to tackle car crime 

West Midlands Police and the Police & Crime Commissioner have welcomed a decision by one of the UK’s biggest vehicle salvage auctioneers to ban cash payments for written-off cars – and said the move will help police curb the rise in vehicle crime.

Salvage management specialists SYNETIQ – a leading seller of industry write-off vehicles – has announced that from 1 March it will stop accepting cash payments from customers and will instead insist on bank transfers. 

West Midlands Police and the PCC launched a campaign last year calling for tougher standards around the re-sale of damaged vehicles amid concerns the practice was fuelling a surge in vehicle theft.

West Midlands Police launched its 'Shop a Chop Shop' campaign last year
West Midlands Police launched its 'Shop a Chop Shop' campaign last year

Investigations run by the force suggest criminal gangs are snapping up damaged cars rated insurance write-offs from salvage auctions – and then stealing cars to order for the parts they need to fix them and sell for a hefty profit.

Around five times more vehicles – mainly luxury marques like Audi, BMW and Range Rover or other high-spec cars – are sold at auction as repairable write-offs compared to write-offs to be scrapped for spare parts.

And it’s suspected the imbalance is leading crooks to steal cars – some during violent car-jackings – for matching spares rather than buy expensive factory-made parts from manufacturers.

West Midlands Police Chief Superintendent Chris Todd welcomed SYNETIQ’s decision and urged other salvage auction houses to follow suit.

He said: “There’s a correlation between the types of cars being stolen and those available as repairable write-offs; it is our firm belief, supported by police intelligence, that this increase is being driven by the criminal demand for car parts.

“SYNETIQ are setting a great example: they are listening to police concerns over the rise in stolen cars and are taking steps to make it more difficult for crime gangs to exploit the salvage vehicle industry.

An Audi body shell uncovered by WMP at a suspected chop shop
An Audi body shell uncovered by WMP at a suspected chop shop

“It’s widely accepted cash payments are fuelling car crime and acting as a money laundering loophole. By making purchasers buy salvage vehicles through bank transactions then we have a footprint of the sale which would clearly help any subsequent investigations.

“We want all salvage businesses to remove cash payment options, tidy up their processes and close potential loopholes that could be exploited by criminals. We also want salvage auctions to introduce a ‘know your customer’ framework and have clear structures in place to report suspicious buyer activity.

“I will continue raising our concerns with government, the Association of British Insurers and online auction and sales sites.”

Richard Martin, Group MD of SYNETIQ, added: “I am delighted SYNETIQ is leading the industry with regard to compliance and transparency. We have worked closely with our clients and the authorities and will continue to drive up standards and trust, in both our business and the industry." 

The PCC and West Midlands Police are members of the government’s taskforce on vehicle crime. It is examining potential law changes and measures that the industry can take to better protect vehicles from theft.

The West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner, David Jamieson, who has been leading a national campaign to reverse the rise in car crime, said: “I’m delighted SYNETIQ have listened to the police and acted quickly to ensure its process doesn’t allow criminals to exploit loopholes in the system.  
“I would urge other firms in the sector to follow SYNETIQ’s lead. There’s much more work to do within the salvage industry, but this is a good start.
“I will continue to fight for more to be done by government, motor manufactures and the insurance industry to clamp down on car thefts.”

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