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Vehicle Crime Reduction Action Team
6: Better regulation
1. This chapter discusses two main areas in which better
regulation can make a significant contribution to achieving
the Government�s vehicle crime reduction target: better
regulation of the salvage industry and tightening up
vehicle registration procedures.
“most salvage dealers operate to high standards
and fully within the law”
The salvage industry
2. We are certain that most salvage dealers operate
to high standards and fully within the law. They provide
a valuable service, disposing of about 1.5 million vehicles
a year. But for the unscrupulous, the salvage industry
can provide a means to dispose of stolen motor vehicles,
either replacing their true identity with that of a
legitimate vehicle which is an insurance write-off (a
process known as “vehicle ringing”) or breaking
them for parts.
3. In 1998, of the vehicles handled by the salvage
industry, about 430,000 were written off by insurance
companies, most of which would have been disposed of
through the salvage industry. It is these vehicles which
provide cover for disguising the true identity of some
of the 120,000 vehicles stolen and not recovered in
1997/1998. The police estimate that about 65% (78,000)
of these stolen and unrecovered vehicles are either
“rung” or broken for spare parts. In addition,
insurance fraud is thought to account for a further
20% (24,000 vehicles), some of which will end up in
the salvage industry and be reported “stolen”
by the owner.
4. The Action Team aims to achieve better regulation
of the industry which will make it harder for thieves
to dispose of stolen vehicles. Reducing the market for
stolen vehicles will in turn, over time, reduce the
amount of vehicle theft.
5. The salvage industry is regulated by the Environmental
Protection Act 1990 (EPA) but the purpose of this Act
is prevention of harm to human health and the environment.
It was not intended to facilitate enforcement of measures
to reduce vehicle crime.
6. In terms of reducing vehicle crime, existing regulation
is achieved by trade associations. The British Vehicle
Salvage Federation (BVSF) represents the larger salvage
dealers (over 70% of the salvage business) and the Motor
Vehicle Dismantlers Association of Great Britain (MVDA)
represents smaller dealers. They undertake to comply
with the Motor Conference Code of Practice for Disposal
of Motor Salvage, which provides for the responsible
disposal of written off vehicles � the main source of
donor vehicles for “ringing”.
The main points of the Code of Practice are:
Proposals for achieving better regulation
7. Better regulation can be achieved either by voluntary
means (self-regulation) or by legislation or a combination
of both. Government policy is that no legislative proposal
which has an impact on business should be brought forward
without a thorough assessment of the risks, costs and
benefits, a clear analysis of who will be affected and
an explanation of why voluntary measures would not be
sufficient. The Action Team therefore first examined
the potential for better regulation of the salvage industry
to be achieved by voluntary means.
8. The existing Code of Practice could be enhanced
in a number of ways, for example by:
linking the insurance industry MIAFTR database
(Motor Insurance Anti-Fraud and Theft Register)
to the DVLA vehicles register. This will enable
DVLA to have a more comprehensive record of total
loss vehicles and to make that information more
widely available (e.g. on the Vehicle Registration
Document � see paragraph 15);
“better regulation can be achieved either
by voluntary means or by legislation”
establishing a set of requirements for record keeping
so that an effective audit trail of purchases and
disposals is maintained;
The effectiveness of the Code of Practice would also
be improved if it were adopted by companies (principally
those such as hire companies, and the Crown, that operate
large fleets of vehicles) which carry their own insurance
against total loss. A draft revised Code of Practice
will be issued for consultation by the end of the year.
9. The Action Team considers that these enhancements
to the Code of Practice will, if implemented, make a
significant contribution to reducing vehicle crime.
But maximising these benefits requires the backing of
legislation given the disparate nature of the industry.
Whilst work is in hand developing a revised Code of
Practice, there is a growing belief that it should be
given statutory backing. A clearer view will emerge
after the consultation period at the end of the year.
10. One other issue that the Action Team is considering
is the ability of owners to retain vehicle salvage,
in particular unrepairable salvage, which has been assessed
as fit only for scrap and which should not be allowed
back on the road. This provides the opportunity for
unsafe vehicles to be put back on the road and facilitates
vehicle �ringing�. Consideration is being given to the
possibility of requiring legislation that would prevent
11. The measures the Action Team has proposed will
address the problem of vehicles being broken for spare
parts as well as “ringing”. This is a sizeable
problem with police estimates of about 40% of stolen
and unrecovered vehicles (about 48,000) being broken
for spare parts.
12. The Home Office New Car Security Guidance recommends
that motor manufacturers should number major component
parts as an effective way of making it harder for criminals
to sell stolen parts and increase the chances of detection.
A key issue is how these marks (which include VIN plates,
chassis numbers, engine numbers and window-etched numbers)
can be protected from alteration or erasure so that
the police can prove from which vehicle the part originated.
Legislation to make it an offence to tamper with marks
and to trade in parts where the marks have been tampered
with would achieve this. The Action Team is considering
recommending such legislation but has yet to examine
the options fully.
“maximising these benefits requires the backing
Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA)
13. DVLA plays a vital role in helping to reduce vehicle
crime by maintaining a comprehensive and accurate vehicles
register containing information about vehicles and their
14. There are three main car crime problem areas which
could be reduced by improving vehicle registration procedures:
15. The Action Team believes that one of the most effective
ways of helping combat these problems is by raising
the status of the Vehicle Registration Document (V5).
At present, its status and purpose can be unclear and
confusing to many consumers, and it is relatively easy
to obtain a replacement which can be used to disguise
the identity of a stolen vehicle. The Action Team believes
that procedures for issuing the Vehicle Registration
Document should be changed so that it is better protected
from fraud and contains more information of value to
consumers. This could be achieved by, for example:
“procedures for issuing the Vehicle Registration
Document should be changed”
Making, at least, a voluntary provision on the
vehicle registration document to record ownership,
although there are outstanding problems as to how
this could be achieved;
We recognise that some of these proposals would inconvenience
the majority of motorists who are honest. However, we
hope that such measures will be acceptable as part of
the drive to stamp out vehicle crime.
“These measures also need to be supported by
increased public awareness”
16. These measures also need to be supported by increased
public awareness of the need for purchasers of vehicles
to have sight of the Vehicle Registration Document before
completing the purchase. Taken together, these measures
will make it more difficult for thieves to obtain legitimate
vehicle registration documents and to sell stolen vehicles
on to unsuspecting members of the public. They also
complement the new initiative being piloted by the Retail
Motor Industry Federation (RMIF) to collect mileage
information. Under the scheme RMIF members will log
the mileage centrally whenever a vehicle is serviced,
repaired or MOT�d. This data would then feed into commercial
databases operated by those organisations offering vehicle
history checking services.
“these measures will make it more difficult
for thieves to obtain legitimate vehicle registration
Vehicle number plates
17. Tightening up on the supply of number plates is
another way in which vehicle “ringing” can
be tackled successfully. At present, the supply of number
plates is unregulated, with no requirement to request
proof of identity or to keep records.
18. The Action Team is considering the options for
tightening up the supply of number plates and the information
they might contain (such as make, model, Vehicle Identification
Number), via new technology, which would make it more
difficult to disguise a vehicle�s identity. Options
include whether self-regulation or legislation is the
best way forward, including how any new arrangements
might best be enforced; what obligations should be put
on manufacturers, retailers and consumers; and what
information number plates should contain. The Action
Team believes there is a case for introducing a secure
number plate system. Discussions are being held with
the industry with a view to making recommendations by
the end of the year.
19. The Action Team welcomes the Government�s recently
issued consultation document on proposed new regulations
setting out requirements for the display of vehicle
number plates. The aim of the proposed changes is to
prohibit fonts, layout or the fitting or treating number
plates in such a way as to make them difficult to read
or photograph. These proposed new regulations will not
only help the police enforce motoring laws more effectively
but will also assist in the identification and recovery
of stolen vehicles and tackling crime generally.
“The Action team believes there is a case for
introducing a secure number plate system”
20. The Action Team believes that effective regulation
of the salvage industry, combined with proposals to
protect parts markings and revised DVLA procedures,
will reduce vehicle crime by about 100,000 offences
over the period of the target.
7: What the motorist can do to
1. The full benefits of all the measures the Action
Team has proposed will not be realised without the active
co-operation of motorists and the wider public.
2. In order to address this, communication strategies
will be developed alongside each of the initiatives,
aimed both at practitioners and those affected by vehicle
crime. A long-term programme of communications and publicity
must be developed and co-ordinated to accompany these
3. Motorists need to be informed about security aspects
of new or used cars � and to be encouraged to take these
into account when making purchasing decisions. They
need to be made more aware that security is not simply
an optional extra but an important way in which they
can safeguard what is often the second most expensive
� if not the most expensive – purchase they will make.
In a competitive market place, manufacturers and retailers
respond well to consumer demand and we would expect
to see an overall raising of security standards over
time, in line with the delivery of a successful communications
4. Although motorists have a responsibility to secure
their vehicle and other possessions, everyday behaviour
reflects low levels of awareness of security issues.
Simple things like leaving valuables on display and
leaving the car unlocked when unattended are commonplace.
(The 1998 British Crime Survey showed that in 12% of
“thefts from” entry was gained through an
unlocked door; and that 29% of “thefts from”
are personal goods). A change in this behaviour also
needs to be delivered through effective communications.
5. Successfully encouraging motorists to look out for
and use “Secured” car parks would also help
to deliver the target, but for this encouragement to
work it is first essential to create far greater awareness
of their existence. Motorists will need to be persuaded
that it is worth actively seeking out a “Secured
Car Park”. Again, given enough momentum through
communications, public opinion will fuel consumer demand,
which in turn will help drive the initiative forward.
6. Motorists need more information and advice. Information
about security features should be available not simply
through the motoring press but at the point of sale.
In relation to used cars, retailers should be encouraged
to actively promote the security features of cars. This
initiative needs to be supported by a wider publicity
campaign targeted at motorists, which provides information
about the security package and cars with approved security
features. The campaign should provide advice that encourages
more security conscious behaviour by motorists.
7. The Action Team has established a separate Task
Group to develop a publicity and communications strategy
to raise public awareness of the key issues and to encourage
all motorists to be conscious of security and what we
all, as members of the public, can do to reduce vehicle
“everyday behaviour reflects low levels of
awareness of security issues”
8. Another way in which members of the public generally,
and motorists in particular, can help to reduce vehicle
crime is to assist the police by providing information
about vehicle crime and criminals. Information may be
given direct to the police or anonymously through CRIMESTOPPERS.
The Action Team fully supports the current SMART campaign
(Stop Motor crime And Ring Today).
The CRIMESTOPPERS telephone number is 0800 555
Summary of action points
Chapter 2 � Better vehicle security
The law should be changed so as to require used
cars 7-10 years old to be fitted with electronic
immobilisers. (i.e. cars registered during 1991-1994,
if legislation were to take effect from April 2001).
Manufacturers should be encouraged to fit deadlocks
more widely on the new car model range, particularly
on cars produced in volume. (Paragraph 10).
Manufacturers should be encouraged to fit laminated
glazing more widely on the new car model range.
A used car security package should be agreed with
retailer representatives and promoted by the industry
to consumers. (Paragraph 14).
Consumers should be provided with more information
about the security features of new cars and the
recommended security package for used cars so that
it informs their purchasing decisions. (Paragraph
10 & 14).
There should be a comprehensive end user registration
scheme for trailers and certain plant and equipment.
Trailers exceeding an unladen weight of 1020 kgs
should be recognised as vehicles and allocated a
Vehicle Identification Number (VIN). (Paragraph
Chapter 3 � Better enforcement
The Police Service to identify good practice in
dealing with vehicle crime and then spread it to
all forces so that the performance of all is raised
to that of the best. (Paragraph 3).
Police officers should be given training in key
vehicle crime reduction messages. (Paragraph 5).
The law should be changed so as to allow the police
access at the roadside, via the Police National
Computer, to DVLA driver records. (Paragraph 8).
Plans in hand for MOT records to be computerised
and the Motor Insurance Database, an initiative
of the motor insurance industry, will significantly
improve the information available to the police
at the roadside. (Paragraph 9).
Chapter 4 � Safer environment
Regional Development Managers to follow up leads
stemming from the recent Home Office Minister of
State�s letter and other initiatives promoting the
Secure Car Park scheme. (Paragraph 8).
A Secured Car Park Directory should be published,
initially in the North-West, to make information
about the location of Secured Car Parks more widely
known. (Paragraph 9).
Local authorities should be encouraged to erect
road signs with a distinctive logo so that consumers
may identify car parks with “secured”
status more readily. (Paragraph 9).
A wider publicity campaign should include the Secured
Car Park initiative so as to raise public awareness
and encourage their use. (Paragraph 9).
Chapter 5 � Modernising information systems
A direct link should be established between the
Motor Industry Anti-Fraud and Theft Register (MIAFTR)
and DVLA. (Paragraph 2).
Extending the coverage of information held on MIAFTR
to include fleet and other vehicles, where owners
carry their own uninsured losses, should be investigated.
The proposed computerisation of MOT records and
the Motor Insurance Database of insured drivers
should both link into the Police National Computer
to provide police officers at the roadside with
ready access to information. (Paragraph 2).
A separate Task Group of the Action Team should
be established to look for appropriate linkages
between different information systems. (Paragraph
Chapter 6 � Better regulation
The existing Motor Conference Code of Practice
for the disposal of motor salvage should be enhanced.
The coverage of the Code of Practice should be
extended to include companies such as fleet hire
companies and others that self-insure. (Paragraph
The Action Team should give further consideration
to the question of legislation to prevent vehicle
owners being allowed to retain salvage and giving
legislative protection to manufacturers� marks on
parts. (Paragraph 10 & 12).
Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA)
Legislation should be considered and resources
Require proof of identity of the applicant when
a Vehicle Registration Document (V5) is issued.
Make it compulsory for the Vehicle Registration
Document to transfer with the vehicle when it
is sold. (Paragraph 15).
Require production of the Vehicle Registration
Document with an application for a Vehicle Excise
Duty licence, if not submitted on a V11 form.
Make collection of mileage data compulsory. (Paragraph
Collect more data on seriously damaged vehicles
and record it on the Vehicle Registration Document.
Public awareness should be raised about the importance
of the Vehicle Registration Document and the need
to see it before completing a purchase. (Paragraph
The Action Team should consider further the options
for tightening up on the supply of number plates
and the information they might contain. (Paragraph
Chapter 7 � What the motorist can do to help
Communication strategies need to be developed alongside
each initiative, aimed both at practitioners and
those affected by vehicle crime. (Paragraph 2).
The profile of vehicle crime needs to be raised
in a properly co-ordinated way, providing a foundation
on which localised communications activity can build.
A long-term programme of communications and publicity
should be developed in order to provide information
and advice to motorists about vehicle security issues.