File picture: Skyler Reid/Independent Media

Durban - South African Police Service (SAPS) vehicle crime investigation officers recovered 45 stolen and hijacked vehicles in Durban in an extended operation from June 24 and July 7, KwaZulu-Natal police said on Sunday. 

The total value of vehicles recovered was estimated to be about R3.5 million, Lt-Col Thulani Zwane said.

One suspect was arrested during the operation and more arrests were expected as the investigations progressed. The operation was conducted jointly by various police units together with the Insurance Crime Bureau, he said.

During the operation police found that several vehicles had been "altered" or had their identification numbers changed and were then reintroduced into the eNatis system by vehicle crime syndicates.

"These vehicles were then sold to members of the community. Members of the community are sensitised to be cautious when buying vehicles from private sellers who advertise on various media platforms. We also wish to make the public aware that the SAPS does not charge members of the public for the storage of their vehicles in our vehicle safeguarding facilities," Zwane said.
 
KwaZulu-Natal acting police commissioner Maj-Gen Bheki Langa commended the units involved in the recovery of the vehicles. “We wish to warn syndicates that these operations are going to be conducted more regularly. Members of the community are also warned not to collude with these criminals by buying vehicles that have been cloned, as it is only a matter of time before the long arm of the law catches up with you,” he said.  
 
“While there might be cases where these cloned vehicles are sold to unsuspecting members of the community we are also aware that in many cases members of the public are aware of these dodgy practices and collude with criminals to buy vehicles for a fraction of their value.

"This contributes to our high rate of stolen and hijacked vehicles as well as the despair it brings to victims of crime. This vicious cycle needs to be brought to an end and we appeal to those who have information of these practices to contact CrimeStop on 08600-10111,” Langa said.