West Yorkshire Police and Lancashire Constabulary have made a number of arrests and seized a vast amount of vehicle components following a joint proactive policing operation.
Officers from both Forces executed warrants at two premises in Lancashire on January 13 suspected of being involved in the theft of motor vehicles from across the North of England.
Two sites were identified as being the potential location for stolen vehicles to be brought to, where they are alleged to have been broken up in to component parts and sold on.
West Yorkshire Police traced vehicles stolen from Leeds, Bradford, Kirklees, Calderdale and Wakefield to Lancashire as part of their intelligence gathering.
Specialist officers from both Forces have been conducting extensive searches of the sites resulting in the seizure of a huge number of nearly new vehicle engines, doors, vehicle panels and other constituent parts, suspected of being from stolen vehicles, chiefly from the Yorkshire and Humber region.
Alongside the vehicle components seized, a large number of horses were also found at the location, including three horses that had died. Officers are continuing to liaise with the RSPCA.
The sites present challenges and have required the involvement of the Environment Agency and RSPCA working towards enforcement.
The intricacies of accurately identifying vehicle components and attributing them to stolen vehicles has been brought about by the specialist work of police vehicle examiners working with specialists from the automotive industry.
There has been a continuing trend of keyless vehicle thefts across the Force since 2010, with the 478 Ford Transit Vans vehicles being reported stolen between January 1 2015 and December 11 2015 alone, with an estimated value in excess of £7.5m.
The theft of Ford Transit Vans across the Yorkshire and Humber region accounts for forty percent of all vehicles stolen, with the make and model being the most stolen vehicle across the UK.
Chief Superintendent Pat Casserly of West Yorkshire Police Protective Services Operations said; “This planned proactive policing operation has been as a direct result of extensive dedicated work of West Yorkshire Officers across the border with colleagues in Lancashire.
“Transit Van thefts have continued to be an issue in West Yorkshire, with 478 vehicles being stolen in an 11 month period last year. Operations like the one this week demonstrate our ongoing commitment to tackling this issue.
“The scale and organisation of the sites have been quite remarkable as this appears to be a well organised, systematic and efficient process to deconstruct vehicles, categorise them and move them on for sale.
“Whilst collectively these incidents result in high value crime, we must remember that each theft has very human consequences. These types of vehicles are often owned and utilised by small businesses and for some, the theft of a vehicle can result in the loss of contracts and future work. Proactive operations such as these help prevent other vehicle owners from potentially becoming future victims of crime.
“Criminals often have the misconception that travelling across county boarders makes their crimes more difficult to detect and investigate. Whilst this can provide challenges to investigators, it by no means prevents officers dedicating themselves to locating those who commit offences, investigating their crimes and bringing them to justice.”
A 39-year-old woman from Blackburn has been arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to steel motor vehicles and burglary, has been questioned and released on police bail pending further enquiries.
A total of nine people have been arrested, questioned and released on police bail. Two of those, a 50-year-old man and 45-year-old man have been released from police bail and will have no further action taken against them at this time.