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Luxury car thefts concern manufacturers

It’s a worry: Luxury cars such as Mercedes-Benzes are still being stolen by teenage gangs, despite numerous arrests.

Victoria’s violent ‘Apex Gang’ car thefts have luxury car distributors on edge

Mercedes-Benz logo14 Jul 2016

VICTORIA’S recent wave of violent aggravated burglaries and car-jackings by gangs of teenage thieves targeting luxury cars is causing furrowed brows at Mercedes-Benz Australia/Pacific.

The company’s communications director David McCarthy told GoAuto that Mercedes was keeping a close eye on the issue because of the impact it might have on customers if it continues.

“It is a worry for every luxury brand,” he said. “Obviously, the higher the value of something the more attractive it is to steal.

“I am not sure if luxury car thefts have risen substantially. It is because these things get a higher profile.

“We keep a close eye on it but there is not much we can do, obviously. The police have a special task force on it.”

Audis, BMWs and Mercedes-Benzes appear to be highly prized by the thieves, but they also steal vehicles of other brands such as Mazda and Holden.

Mr McCarthy said that because modern cars were so secure, the only way to steal them was to get the key, leading to these confronting thefts.

But Mr McCarthy said criminals wanting a new key for a stolen Mercedes faced an uphill battle.

“We have a very strict regime about replacing keys,” he said. “You can’t just go into another dealer and get a key. There is actually a process – Germany has to approve it.”

The news media in Melbourne has been carrying almost daily reports of such attacks by a group dubbed the Apex Gang for the street in which a loose group of mainly Sudanese and Islander youths was formed.

Police say many of the thefts are copycat offenders from other parts of Melbourne.

These raids frequently involve small groups of youths as young as 13 and armed with bats and shovels smashing their way into houses to steal the car keys for luxury vehicles along with phones, handbags and other items of value.

Home occupants have been bashed when they tried to resist. The cars have frequently been used in other crimes, and several have been destroyed in crashes.

In one such recent crash, a BMW X5 carrying nine people slammed into a pole on Melbourne’s Westgate Freeway.

Another tactic involves gang members driving in to the back of a luxury car to mimic a minor accident. When the unsuspecting driver alights to inspect the damage, he or she is confronted by gang members who demand his car, complete with keys.

Victoria Police reportedly has made dozens of arrests in conjunction with these crimes.

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