Australian Institute of Criminology

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Stolen vehicle parts market

Media Release

29 November 2001

It is estimated that Australia has the second highest rate of car theft victimisation in the world. While the majority of cars stolen in this country are by opportunistic offenders for joyriding and transport, about one quarter are stolen by professional offenders for profit. Many that are stolen for profit end up as spare parts.

A report released today by the Australian Institute of Criminology provides an overview of the stolen vehicle parts market and its dynamics including the end uses of stolen parts, the links between the legitimate industry and the illegal parts trade, and the flow of vehicle parts through the market.

"Very little is known about the spare parts market and its dynamics" said Dr Adam Graycar, AIC Director. "This report which is based on interviews with a small number of offenders as well as law enforcement officers, motor traders and insurance representatives, is a path breaking attempt to understand the elements of the spare parts trade. It is an important contribution to this under-researched area".

The research finds that:

  • Stolen vehicle parts are used for resale; to replace end of life, stolen or damaged parts, to rebuild a wrecked vehicle; and to upgrade other vehicles.
  • Both newer and older vehicles are susceptible to theft for parts. Generally, the demand for stolen parts is greater when vehicle components are difficult to obtain or when parts are more costly to replace.
  • Professional thieves are largely motivated by the low risks and high returns associated with the trade in stolen vehicle parts.
  • There is no one identifiable pathway for the distribution of parts. Vehicles and parts may pass through a number of hands before reaching the end user.

The report calls for a better estimate of the number of vehicles stolen and stripped for parts each year.