Monday, April 18, 2011
Car-theft syndicates using college students
IN THEIR bid to make quick bucks, college and secondary students are falling prey to syndicates involved in car thefts.
They are paid between RM300 and RM500 for every car stolen and some can even earn up to RM8,000 a month.
A source, who runs a car workshop, said the students were responsible for tailing vehicles after the car keys were duplicated by operators of workshops, carwash, valet parking and towing services cooperating with the syndicates.
He said only the bolder ones were asked to steal the cars. In most cases, they were given about an hour to drive the vehicles straight to the port where containers were waiting to ship them overseas. A batch of shipment normally carries six cars and they can ship off 30 to 50 cars a month.
The youngsters also drive the vehicles to designated workshops where the parts are disassembled immediately.
“It is not difficult to penetrate into schools and colleges. The amount is attractive to the youngsters, who are either from poor families or are hooked to a lavish urban lifestyle,” he said.
“But in many cases, the boys do it for the excitement. To be able to steal a car within minutes, avoid police road blocks and send the vehicles within the stipulated time to the destination is a challenge that gives them the adrenaline rush,” he added.
The source advised the public to be watchful when they leave their car keys to the outlets because many of them were working closely with the ring.
He said there were many car theft syndicates in the Klang Valley and one could have a pool of up to 50 students at their disposal but their parents had no clue about what their children do.
He added that this trend of roping in students had been going on for about 10 years.
“Training” is provided and the “trainers” would sometimes disguise as policemen to assess how the youngsters react in critical situations. Some students are involved as soon as they obtain their driving licence.
“The students are given the plate numbers of the cars and they work in groups to reduce risks. They are usually asked to follow the drivers for about a week, not only to see the drivers’ patterns, but also to make sure that no other syndicates are eyeing the same car. Clashes between syndicates can lead to bloodshed,” he said.
The smarter students or the expert car thieves then take over from there. According to him, they can fetch the highest commission of RM30,000 with Toyota Harrier, as this model has a high demand in the Middle East. Toyota Hilux, Honda Civic and Toyota Camry as well as other four-wheeled-drive vehicles from Japan.
“European cars are not in high demand in the black market,” he said.
He did not know how many car theft syndicates there were but said many used a legal and successful car dealer who sold expensive cars as a frontage.
Besides using duplicate keys, the syndicates also use tailor-made circuit boards costing up to RM20,000 each to steal vehicles. “The technology is amazing. The car is unlocked, alarm system crippled and engine activated within minutes simply by scanning the circuit board over it,” he said.
From his observation, Subang Jaya, Serdang, Cheras and Kuala Lumpur are the hottest spots with the many shopping centres and commercial districts in these areas. The culprits often avoid small towns such as Kajang because the residents know one another.
The students will not stay long with the syndicates. “Most of them will leave after they’ve earned enough,” he said.
Not all are lucky enough to escape, though. Some of them even lost their lives in the violent rivalry among the syndicates. He had heard at least 10 cases in five years about students beaten to death when trying to steal a car, because other thieves also wanted it.
As a result, some thieves would pretend to be hurt and sought help from strangers to drive the car for them. In fact, they are looking for scapegoats. “That’s the scariest part of the whole operation,” he said.
When contacted, Subang Jaya OCPD Asst Comm Zainal Rashid Abu Bakar and Cheras OCPD Assist Comm Mohan Singh said they had not received any report on car thefts involving students, and that the rate of car theft was not alarming in the areas.
Serdang OCPD Supt Abdul Razak Elias said there were a few cases of car thefts involving school dropouts aged between 16 and 18, who had been apprehended.
HOW TO PREVENT CAR THEFT
• Always station yourself on the spot when your vehicles are in the carwash;
• Always visit only the workshops you are familiar with;
• Be wary of valet parking operators
•Be wary of tow truck operators, look for the ones you are close with;
• Park at bright and busy places, alarm and anti-theft systems can be disabled easily with the advent of technology; and
• Do not ever drive a car for a stranger even when they are seeking your assistance.
By YIP YOKE TENG firstname.lastname@example.org