POLICE have smashed a £200,000 car-cutting scam believed to involve stolen vehicles from across Hartlepool and East Durham.
Officers uncovered the “chop shop” of top-of-the-range motors at an allotment after raiding four premises.
The cars, including Land Rovers, Nissan Jukes, Audi A5s and Vauxhall Corsas, which have been stripped to individual parts, are believed to have been stolen from across the region in the past few months.
Police say some of the vehicles may also have been stolen from further afield, including from other parts of the Cleveland and Durham force areas, as well as from the Northumbria Police area.
“Chop shops” are places where stolen cars are disassembled and sold on, piece-by-piece, to disreputable dealers at often lucrative prices.
Once separated from their chassis, many vehicle parts don’t carry Vehicle Identification Numbers (VINs) and can no longer be identified and traced.
The discovery of thousands of car parts, which were in a 300ft-long shed in allotments off Low Hogg Street, Trimdon Colliery, came after officers from Peterlee Police raided three houses in the village on Monday night.
No one was at any of the addresses, and police are still trying to find the crooks responsible.
Sergeant Ian Dickinson, of Peterlee Police, said: “This is one of the biggest set-ups of this kind that I have seen. “A lot of these cars could be from Hartlepool and East Durham, as well as the County Durham, Cleveland and Northumbria areas.
“They have been broken down into different parts and stripped ready to be sold on.”
The police’s operation has been ongoing for around four months, and it is thought this particular set-up had been accumulating for about two months.
Detective Sergeant Claire-Louise Wells, of Peterlee CID, said: “The operation has been a success and there is going to be a lot of ongoing work to try and bring the offenders to justice.
“Hopefully we will be able to get the parts identified, update the victims of the crimes and put a stop to this.”
Anyone with information about the operation, or any others of its kind, is urged to contact Peterlee Police on 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111.