Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home | Volume 1, Issue 16, Tuesday September 16, 2003






Odd jobs

Interview with a car thief

I happened upon a chauffeur who likes to boast a little about his past antics. He used to be an unemployed mechanic who moonlighted in a rather unusual job. He stole car parts for a living.

How do they operate?

Thieves operate as loners or in gangs. There are the spur of the moment types who lurk in dark places hoping to swipe any removable thing off from a car. Usually they are the ones who run off with your rubber strips fro the doors. Then there are the organized ones mostly in groups who strategically plan and carry out their tactics.

How do they decide which cars to pick?

Cars are meant to be stripped and the parts sold off separately. The stripping, as undignified as it sounds, takes place either where the car is located or else it is taken somewhere to be dismantled. Gangs or individuals locate a car and take off minor parts like the badges, window surrounds and side lights. This is very risky and not very profitable. A better idea is to hit apartment complexes where there are a lot of different cars parked at the dead of night. A recent robbery took place in a building in Dhanmondi Road 11 where the guards were tied up and specific cars were robbed. Windows, lights and plastic trim were stolen because these are harder to find in the market. Eventually customers end up buying their own parts.

What are the hotspots?

Well, Lalmatia used to be pretty good but there's too much risk of getting caught. Most people know each other. Dhanmondi is still the hot spot because nobody knows anybody. Gulshan is pretty safe because everyone parks their cars inside huge compounds. Places continually change mainly because there has to be good escape routes.

What about alarms?

Alarms help a lot but the thieves are becoming a bit too clever. They break in the front grill, raise the hood and disconnect the battery so the alarm receives no power. If they are skillful enough they can do it without the alarm going off at all. This is partly thanks to the poor quality of the alarms themselves.

What about hijacking?

It's a much more profitable method but also more risky. Hijacking is done either to sell the car later or to use it for a particular purpose such as kidnapping or hijacking again. Seems it is a never ending chain. Specific cars to be stolen are targeted weeks in advance and followed around to pick up a pattern. This helps them to select an isolated place where the car stays put for a long time. Once overtaken the car is moved to a garage in most cases and stripped of all the valuable parts like the interior/exterior trim, bumpers, lights, wheels and if possible the engine as well. Only the shell is left but sometimes they just sell off the car to someone else and it ends up being lost.

The police are usually no help unless you no someone who can pull all the right strings.

So what do the thieves look for?

They want a car that can be fenced easily or has equipment like hi-end sound systems and DVD players that can be sold easily. They look for popular cars such as Corollas, Corsas, Civics, Vistas etc.

So how do you prevent your dream machine from becoming a nightmare?

First of all if you do have an alarm try to install an alternate power source for it. Another small battery situated somewhere else in the car and connected in tandem to the existing battery will allow the alarm to go off even if they cut the main power. Such a backup system can be devised by anyone who has a good knowledge of electronics. This helps if your car is mostly kept in the open and you are in hearing range.

If you have to park your car outside for a while choose a well lit area and also where you can periodically check on your pride and joy. If the car is chauffeur driven try to make the chauffeur remain inside with the doors locked. He won't suffocate to death with the windows lowered a little but he might be bored to death.

You might seem paranoid but be on the look out for unknown faces lurking around for no apparent reason. Nosy people are usually a sign of trouble.

By Ehsanur Raza Ronny



home | Issues | The Daily Star Home

2003 The Daily Star