Insurance Industry Warns Against “Chop Shops”

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Mechanics strip a truck in less than 15 minutes
Mechanics strip a truck in less than 15 minutes

A 1984 Chevrolet light duty pick-up was stripped in a parking lot in Dublin Wednesday. It was a demonstration showing how easily a car’s parts are stolen and stripped at chop shops.

You’d think with Lojack, On-star and global positioning satellites, car thievery would be a dying industry. But experts say its not.

Thieves are out there ready to steal your car and disassemble it for parts.

It took less than 15 minutes for a “gang” of mechanics to strip the tires, the hood, the pick-up bed, doors, and grill from a 1984 Chevy truck. The mechanics were with the National Insurance Crime Bureau, which represents more than a thousand car insurance companies.

The bureau’s Tom Zimmer says the older model Chevy is attractive to thieves because it has no computer or antitheft devices. And because parts for older cars and trucks are harder to come by and therefore more valuable.

“The sheet metal and wheels in total value are going to exceed the value of the whole vehicle,” Zimmer says. “The thief or the guy running the warehouse does not want to get caught with the total vehicle because it’s going to be identifiable and it’s going to be an arrest. He gets caught with the sheet metal, prove where it came from. It’s very very difficult.”

Nationally, 66 percent of stolen cars and trucks are recovered. But not before half of them have been stripped to varying degrees. Bureau CEO Joe Wehrle.

“When you can turn 100 percent profit there’s probably some incentive there,” Wehrle says. “And what we’re trying to demonstrate here is that they take them into garages somewhere and take them apart.”

The Insurance Bureau says the demonstration aimed to keep people on the lookout for chop shops.

The FBI says about 6,200 cars were stolen in Columbus last year.

The National Insurance Crime Bureau says the three most stolen cars in Ohio in 2006 were the ’93 Oldsmobile Cutlass, the ’94 Dodge Caravan and the ’93 Buick Century.

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