Nine people were arrested at dawn after a series of raids by police investigating the theft of 70 high-quality cars.
City police say a gang of thieves stole cars – most of them Range Rovers – from people’s driveways in south east England using key cloning technology on key fobs.
A spokesman said: “Detectives arrested nine people following a series of early morning arrest warrants for a criminal gang believed to be responsible for stealing at least 70 high-quality cars.
“North East Area CID officials, assisted by the Organized Vehicle Crime Unit and Territorial Support Group, conducted a proactive operation in the early hours of March 17 to issue search warrants to 10 residential addresses in London, Essex and Hertfordshire from Target is Organized Crime Network (OCN), which detectives believe is responsible for the theft of at least 70 high-quality cars, the majority being Range Rovers, valued at more than £ 1.5 million.
“As a result of this morning’s arrest warrants, nine people were arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to steal vehicles and conspiracy to transform criminal property.
“They have been taken to a police station in east London where they are being held.
“Detectives believe the OCN is responsible for the theft, cloning, and fraudulent sales of high quality vehicles. The first theft dates back to November 2019.
“Vehicle cloning changes the identity of a vehicle and can be as simple as adding stolen license plates.
“A joint investigation by the North East Area CID and the Organized Vehicle Crime Unit has linked at least 70 high-quality vehicle thefts to the group, with cars stolen from people’s driveways in London, Surrey, Kent, Essex and Hertfordshire. The majority were keyless car thefts – in which thieves use a device to capture the signal from the key fob in order to trick the car into opening it.
“Detectives believe the OCN routinely cloned and registered vehicles and fraudulently sold them in London and Essex.”
Detective Constable Tom Jenkins, the North East CID investigative officer, said: “We listened to what the public said to us and we understand that stealing a vehicle, especially from your own driveway, is extremely burdensome and an area of policing that the community should focus on.
“For many months we have worked tirelessly behind the scenes creating evidence against the Organized Crime Group, which we believe is responsible for the theft and fraudulent resale of at least 70 high quality vehicles so that we can make our arrests today .
“I hope this shows the community that we take this type of crime very seriously and we will do everything in our power to bring those responsible to justice.
“I want to remind people with electronic car keys to keep them out of doors and in a signal blocking bag when not in use to prevent thieves from scanning them to open and steal your nearby car.
“I also want to urge those who buy cars to remain vigilant. If you buy a stolen car, not only would you lose your money and not have a car, but you could be arrested for being with.” handled stolen goods.
“When purchasing a vehicle, always check the DVLA V5 document and ensure that the vehicle identification number on the vehicle matches the one on the document.”