More than 2,000 suspected car thieves arrested during year-long police crackdown

It is likely to be a record year for a police crackdown on car thieves in the West Midlands, with more than 2,300 suspects arrested and over 1,000 stolen vehicles recovered.

Operation Cantil, led by West Midlands Police, has been targeting car thieves and offenders who break into homes to steal car keys.

It has involved 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.

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

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

Two men, aged 18, and three boys, all aged 16, have been charged with conspiracy to burgle and conspiracy to rob.

They are currently on remand in youth offenders institutions while police inquiries continue.

In 2020, Operation Cantil netted 2,465 people and found 1,035 stolen cars – but with December’s figures still to be collated it is 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 Operation 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.”

Operation Cantil has been running since 2017 and will continue next year.

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."

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