This is an online guide to spotting a Chop Shop in your neighborhood. Some tips and suggestions will follow on how you can do your part in making Abbotsford the safest city in B.C.
What is a Chop Shop?
A chop shop is a location or business which disassembles stolen automobiles for the purpose of selling them as parts. Chops shops range in sophistication and are often run out of a garage, warehouse or generally a large rural property using barns or storage facilities..
A chop shop must be able to take apart a vehicle quickly for the saleable or ordered parts and then dispose of the “carcas” which would be evidence against the suspects. Time is of the essence: more cars processed equals higher profits. There is no advantage to a large inventory as the unwanted and discarded parts would pile up, leaving visual evidence of the suspect’s activity. It can be done more efficiently in a “dismantle for order manner”. Often a “suspect” will have a buyer for a certain part or vehicle prior to even possessing the item. Respectively, a shopping list will be drawn up and sent out to other thieves to locate and steal (ie: Black Ford F150, Nissan King cab etc). The parts or entire vehicle is then shipped to the buyer and remaining parts discarded or held for other purchasers.
Stolen Vehicles and VIN’s
Suspects tamper with Vehicle Identification Numbers (VIN’s) to prevent identification of the part or vehicle. Tampering with a VIN label, decal or stamped, is a criminal offence. A Vehicle Identification Number, commonly abbreviated to VIN, is a unique serial number used by the automotive industry to identify individual motor vehicles, motorcycles etc.
“Culprits” are removing the Primary VINs from the dash(driver’s side front windshield) and driver’s door or door post (Federal safety standard decal) of a stolen vehicle (eg: off of a 2004 blue F150) and replacing it with VIN identification from a damaged (wreck) vehicle. Sometimes they’ll even computer generate a VIN from an identical vehicle observed on the internet. Police call this “re-vinning.” The “bad guy” then takes the stolen vehicle, registers and insures it as a “rebuilt” vehicle or imported vehicle. Often these vehicles are then sold to unsuspecting buyers for profit to the suspect. Since these vehicles are still considered “stolen,” police seize and return them to their rightful owner. This is often the unfortunate reality for upstanding people who had already paid for the vehicle.
When purchasing a vehicle, make sure the party named on the transfer papers is present. If they’re absent, this should raise flags to any buyer. These could be re-vinned vehicles where the suspects use fraudulent names on the transfer papers to hide their identity. Make sure their ID is synonymous with the transfer documents.
How to spot a “Chop Shop”
It’s safe to say that some people enjoy collecting car parts and working on vehicles. By no means does this constitute, in every instance, a Chop Shop. That being said, here is a list of some things that should raise your suspicion. Generally, if three or more of the following activities are present, it might warrant a call to The Abbotsford Police Department’s “non-emergency” line. Remember, general common sense also applies.
Things of interest:
- Vehicles parked in secluded areas of property (under tarps, hidden in bushes).
- Vehicle parts organized into sections or piles (stack of vehicle doors, engines).
- Cutting torches and Acetylene tanks.
- Odd working hours, especially late at night.
- Grinding, hammering and sawing sounds are a regular occurrence.
- Significant traffic for the type of property.
- Different vehicles coming and going regularly.
- Vehicles with mismatched “front and rear” plates; or vehicles with missing plates.
- Vehicles towed to the property or dropped off on flat decks.
- Vehicles observed with door lock and/or ignition damage
- All sorts of vehicles, ATV’s, excavator equipment etc.
- Gated yards, or property’s that prevent or welcome public access.
- Parts of vehicles where labels or decals have been removed
- Suspects are using the same license plate on different vehicles to transport.