Car Thieves Resort To Creative Techniques

RIYADH, 27 October 2004 — Car rental companies have cautioned customers about a new trend in automobile thefts.

In one incident, Budget Rent-a-Car Company lost a brand-new Lumina driven by a customer only a few days ago when thieves adopted a novel technique to steal it. Budget alone lost three vehicles in one day.

Similar incidents have been reported by other car rental companies.

M.S.A. Qureshi, regional manager of Budget Rent-a-Car in Riyadh, said: “This is a new trend in car theft. While driving the vehicle if you meet with an accident, don’t leave the vehicle and your belongings unattended.”

He said there was a good chance that someone is trying to get away with your car as soon as you get out of your vehicle.

“In thefts where vehicles are not secured by customers, especially in cases when ignition keys are not taken out and doors are not properly closed, insurance companies are not obliged to pay any compensation.”

Asked about the modus operandi of car thieves, Al-Zain Awad El-Karim, credit and collection manager at Avis Hala Rent-a-Car, said: “The company has been losing two cars a month; they are never recovered.” This is in addition to between seven and nine rented vehicles recovered every month with the help of police.

Official statistics released by Riyadh police indicate that 3,341 car thefts took place in a single year. In some of the cases, cars are taken by joyriders to their favorite spots or deserts and then abandoned.

“In 98 percent of the cases, however, rental cars are stolen or abandoned after several days by Saudi youngsters,” said El-Karim adding that a person from some remote area rents a car and then disappears for months. “Once the person or the car is spotted, then the police are alerted by the company for recovery,” he said.

“In an incident last week, a car stolen from Khurais Road in Riyadh was found in a badly damaged condition at an isolated place beside Airport Road,” said a spokesman of Farah Car Rental. He said: “The thieves stole the stereo system of the car, opened the glove box and took whatever was there.”

Abu Bakr, marketing manager at a polyclinic, was the victim when a vehicle rammed the boot of his car. As Bakr got out to inspect the damage, an Arab youth jumped into the car and drove away. The other driver also fled. Two weeks later, when the police recovered the vehicle, they found all the tires slashed.

Recently a man stopped his Cressida car briefly in front of a hospital and got out to meet an acquaintance. But, when he returned, the car was gone.

In all these cases, motorists and police are to be blamed. Khaled Al-Shaar, a Saudi executive, said one of the factors responsible for the alarming growth in car thefts was lack of deterrent punishment. Car thieves, he said, can simply walk out of a police station by giving a signed commitment that they will not do it again. Otherwise, they receive 100 lashes if they are Saudis and 500 if they are expatriates. Soon they are back in the street looking for more cars to steal.

A study conducted by the Ministry of Interior blames nearly half of the car thefts on the negligence of car owners and says that most are committed by teenagers who steal for joyriding purposes. The report cites numerous examples of owner negligence including leaving the car engine running for quick errands, leaving the car unlocked with the keys inside, leaving valuables inside the car, parking cars in isolated areas and lending cars to untrustworthy people.

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