Luxury Vehicles on East Coast Targeted for Theft, Export to Nigeria

September 17, 2003

The recovery of 12 vehicles to Baltimore from Antwerp, Belgium announced this week reportedly illustrates a troubling trend in vehicle theft, the targeting of luxury vehicles in the United States for theft and export to foreign nations, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB).

The luxury vehicles valued at more than $700,000, including Cadillac Escalades, BMWs, a Lincoln Navigator and a Mercedes CL 500, were on their way to Nigeria when the shipment was halted in Antwerp as the result of an investigation by the Baltimore County Regional Auto Theft Task Force, the FBI, Belgian police, the NICB and several other law enforcement agencies.

The vehicles, including one rental car, were reportedly stolen off the street and from car dealerships in Florida, Georgia and New York. The value of this recovery combined with the similar recovery of 10 additional luxury vehicles in Baltimore earlier this summer totals more than $1 million.

More than 1.2 million vehicles worth more than $8.2 billion are stolen in the United States each year with approximately 200,000 illegally exported out of the country, said the NICB. FBI statistics show that vehicle theft increased 4.2 percent during the first six-months of 2002, compared with the same period in 2001 (latest data available), continuing an upward trend after over a 30% decline in the 1990’s.

At the same time, the recovery rate of stolen vehicles has declined from the mid 80 percent in the early 1990 to 62 percent in 2001 (latest data available). Many of the un-recovered vehicles are shipped overseas or driven across international borders. NICB ( estimates approximately 200,000 stolen vehicles are illegally exported out of the country each year.

“People who live in communities near ports and international borders need to pay special attention to protecting their cars and trucks from thieves,” said Robert Bryant, NICB president and CEO. He also noted that the decline in the recovery rate is particularly troublesome.

“The drop in recoveries of stolen vehicles indicates growth in well-organized, professional theft rings who direct stolen vehicles to ‘chop shops’ which dismantle them for parts or transport them out of the country,” continued Bryant.

The NICB recommends a layered approach to preventing theft, with the number of layers depending on the vehicle, geographic location, budget and personal preference.

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