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NSW Bill could boost Victorian crime

Planned theft auto: Victorian motorists could encounter a spike in vehicle thefts thanks to the passing of a bill by the NSW government.

Crackdown could push thieves across the border into Victoria

General News logo6 Sep 2016

THE Victorian Automobile Chamber of Commerce (VACC) says the Victorian government’s failure to act could see thieves from New South Wales crossing the border into Victoria to pursue the lucrative trade in profit-motivated vehicle theft.

The concerns were raised after a Bill was introduced into the NSW Parliament that would prevent scrap metal merchants paying cash for scrap.

This means they would have to pay by bank-to-bank electronic transfer, creating a digital “paper trail” that could be used to track down the vendors of any stolen metal or cars.

“This (NSW) Bill has the capacity to drastically reduce the theft of metals and will also help eliminate illegal scrap metal operations and the theft of cars for illegal parts sales and scrapping,” said VACC executive director Geoff Gwilym.

Mr Gwilym said the Victorian government had demonstrated apathy and a lack of action on this issue since a Victoria Police report on this issue was published in September 2014.

Once the the NSW Bill is enacted, Mr Gwilym said it was likely that profit-motivated vehicle theft will simply move over the border.

“NSW’s problem will then become our problem,” he said.

Mr Gwilym said the ability to pay in cash was one of the key issues facing the scrap metal industry.

“If all scrap metal payments were made by electronic means it would leave a trace for investigators,” he said.

“The last thing we want to see (in Victoria) is an increase in vehicle and metal theft due to the migration of thieves looking for easier options.”

He said the introduction of similar laws in one jurisdiction in the United Kingdom had resulted in the migration of thieves to an adjoining jurisdiction with a subsequent spike in thefts.

Mr Gwilym said the Victorian government had been sitting on a Victoria Police report into profit-motivated vehicle theft since late in 2014.

That report, entitled Task Force Discover, was compiled so Victoria Police and other agencies could start to understand the size of the problem.

The report found that 2562 stolen cars and light-commercial vehicles went unrecovered in Victoria in 2013.

The number of unrecovered vehicles had risen by 21 per cent over five years “due to the ability of vehicle thieves to profit from the growing domestic and international demand for spare parts and scrap metal”.

The report found that the growing demand had also led to an expansion in the motor wrecking and scrap metal industries “which now comprise a variety of players displaying an equally diverse range of capital resources, experience and levels of compliance with the law”.

“Vehicle thieves can subsequently exploit the non-compliant tiers of industry to off-load, launder and sell stolen vehicles for the value of their separated parts and left over scrap metal” the report says.

The task force audited 432 motor vehicle wreckers and scrap metal dealers representing about 90 per cent of the industry in Victoria.

It found that 302 or 70 per cent of the companies either did not hold the correct licence or registration or were non-compliant with other requirements.

Almost all of them failed to notify the written-off vehicles register when a vehicle was scrapped.

Wreckers need to have a motorcar traders licence while second-hand dealers need to be registered. Both need to keep records of the vehicles they are dealing with.

The sole recommendation of the Task Force Discover report was that the government establish a working party to develop responses and assess options for addressing the issue of profit-motivated vehicle theft.

“The Victorian government has not acted on the recommendation of the report and is yet to establish a working group to develop risk assessment guidelines for a pilot project,” Mr Gwilym said.

“Meanwhile, NSW has introduced legislation that will provide positive public benefit and will slow down criminal dealings in scrap metal, stolen vehicles and parts.”

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