No let-up in pursuit of car thieves

West Midlands police have arrested more than 2,300 suspected car thieves and recovered over 1,000 stolen vehicles in what’s set to be a record year for our operation targeting car theft gangs.

Between January and November 2021 a total of 2,371 people were arrested and 1,004 stolen vehicles returned to their owners.

Our offensive against car thieves and offenders who break into homes to steal car keys is called Operation Cantil.

Its success is down to traffic officers from the Central Motorway Police Group being used on intelligence-led patrols across the region.

Those traffic units work through the night alongside specialist units, including dog teams, to target areas that have been hit with burglaries plus near the homes of potential suspects. 

And often they’re in the right place at the right time to catch thieves who are hunting high-value vehicles.

We're patrolling through the night looking for car thieves
We’re patrolling through the night looking for car thieves

One notable strike came in the early hours of 23 November when we arrested a group of five teenagers we believe are linked to around 30 car-key burglaries where door locks are snapped to gain entry to homes.

Two 18-year-old men, plus three 16-year-old boys, have all been charged with conspiracy to burgle and conspiracy to rob; they’re currently on remand in youth offenders institutions while our enquiries continue.

In 2020 Op Cantil netted 2,465 people and found 1,035 stolen cars – but with December’s figures still to be collated it’s looking like 2021 may be a record year for the team.

West Midlands Police Detective Sergeant Sandy Thompson from force CID, said: “It’s been another successful year with some really significant arrests of people we believe are behind a spate of vehicle thefts and burglaries.

“Many of these arrests are in the middle of the night when offenders are looking to take cars while owners are sleeping.

“But officers on Op Cantil patrols are also working overnight and into the early hours of the morning on the lookout for offenders. They are not getting away and thanks to the hard work of the team, we’re seeing the number of car-key burglaries continue to fall. 

“However, we are not complacent and we will be continuing our focus on the offenders as well as endeavouring to target those who are controlling them.”

Our Op Cantil patrols arrested 2,000+ people last year and recovered 1,004 stolen cars
Our Op Cantil patrols arrested 2,000+ people last year and recovered 1,004 stolen cars

Operation Cantil has been running since 2017 and will continue next year as we keep up the pressure on car thieves and organised crime gangs.  

The West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner, Simon Foster said: “This targeted operation against organised car thieves is producing great results for the people of the West Midlands.

“There is, sadly, a lot of money to be made by criminals in the stolen car market. Especially when it comes to spare parts. I am committed to backing operations like this which are taking the fight to car thieves who cause misery to countless victims of vehicle crime.

“There is still more work to be done to prevent and tackle vehicle thefts across our region and I will be looking very closely at new ways to bring down these car theft gangs.”