Widespread drive-off and number-plate crime in the West Midlands has prompted police to join forces with car dealerships across the region in a new crime reduction initiative. From this month, showrooms in Birmingham, Dudley, Sandwell, Walsall and Coventry will fit anti-theft number plate screws as standard to every vehicle they sell.

The new scheme is the latest phase in the long-running Operation Kadence, which has already seen police working closely with petrol stations to tackle offences at the pumps. But despite a significant reduction over the past three years, West Midlands Police said it still receives around 300 reports of so-called ’bilking’ and 250 reports of number plate theft every month. The bilkings are linked to the theft of number plates which offenders often use when committing crimes on the forecourts.

Police and crime commissioner, Bob Jones, welcomed the initiative. He said: "It is good to see the industry working together with police to make it harder for the criminals to offend. We are planning to hold a summit event for representatives from the industry later this year to invite their suggestions on what more can be done to tackle this type of crime."

Chief inspector Andy Beard, who is leading the initiative, said: "We’ve already made great progress through Operation Kadence, having reduced the number of offences by some 30% since its peak in 2011. This work has involved us increasing patrols, analysing CCTV into thefts and working closely with petrol stations. It’s great to now have the dealerships on board because not only are they making it harder for thieves to steal number plates in the first place, but they are also helping reduce the inconvenience and cost caused to members of the public when having to purchase replacement plates."

The new phase of Operation Kadence is being supported with a range of marketing material. Retailers can display posters highlighting their involvement in the scheme and drivers will be given in-car stickers which show their vehicle is fitted with tamper-proof screws.