It has long been known among US-based Land Rover enthusiasts that there is a sizable UK black market trade for stolen Defenders and their component parts. Last month we reported on the alarming trend of bonnet and door thefts. Now police in the Northeast of England are reporting a rash of outright thefts of entire vehicles.
Authorities in the Yorkshire and the Midlands recorded an uptick in Defender thefts as the vehicles were phased out of production starting in 2015. The latest wave has resulted in over £760,000 in thefts over just the past year. Figures released by well-known UK insurance carrier NFU Mutual found that Defender claims rose by 8% to a total of £1.8 million for 2015. In North Yorkshire alone, Defender thefts increased by 69 percent.
Owners in the UK and Europe are being advised by police to upgrade the security systems on their cars. Many of the stolen Defenders are stripped and sold for parts, or sold abroad as demand grows for the out of production vehicles.
According to one particular police officer, "It appears an organized group of criminals is specifically targeting this make and model of vehicle. It is evident these thieves have knowledge of this particular vehicle's factory-fitted security and electrical systems.”
Law enforcement officials recommend that owners consider fitting a transponder-based security marking system and tracker device, and etching windows with the Vehicle Identification Number.
And don’t expect that this will die down any time soon, as the value of Defenders and their parts continues to rise astronomically now that production has ceased for good.
We’re not sure if this trend of rising thefts will make its way across the Atlantic, though some of the recommendations for protecting your Defender from theft make sense over here too, as they will continually get more difficult and expensive to repair or replace.
One aspect of this trend of particular concern for US buyers of imported Defenders and parts, is that although it is less likely your vehicle will be stolen here, it is critical to confirm that the vehicle or parts are from a legitimate source. Not doing so could end badly for all parties if a stolen vehicle gets seized at a US port of entry. Will Hedrick, a US-based attorney and Land Rover enthusiast, represented over 50 Defender owners in customs seizure cases. Says Hedrick, “If you're thinking of buying a Defender from overseas, then conducting a thorough background check on a selected vehicle is a necessity. Otherwise, you run the risk of purchasing stolen property, for which there is no recourse when seized.”
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