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 week, 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 a long-running operation - 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 says 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 their crimes on the forecourts.
Police and crime commissioner Bob Jones welcomed the latest crime reduction 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 per cent since its peak in 2011.
"This work has involved us increasing patrols, analysing CCTV into reported thefts and working closely with petrol stations to catch offenders.
"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.
"I want to thank them for supporting us and for taking the issue so seriously and I hope together we can drive down this reduction in offences even further.
"With an average of around 300 bilkings every month across the force area, it’s still both a local and national problem and something we must continue to address."
The new phase of Operation Kadence is being supported with a range of marketing materials in a bid to raise awareness of bilking and number plate theft, as well as deterring offenders.
Retailers will 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.
Giant advertising billboards will also be touring known bilking hotspots in the coming weeks emphasising the commitment of the police to prevent offences and trace those responsible.