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AVCIS, the Association of Chief Police Officers Vehicle Crime Intelligent Service, is warning private car sellers to be wary of prospective buyers, after a recent spate of car thefts during test drives.

“Private sellers are being duped by thieves who suggest that the car has a problem, such as a knocking sound or open car boot, which requires the seller to check the outside of the vehicle. The victim pulls over and leaves the car to check the problem and the thief drives off with the vehicle,” warns Head of AVCIS, Detective Chief Inspector Mark Hooper. “In one instance the victim sustained injuries through being run over as the thief drove the car away.

“There is an increasing occurrence of car theft in this manner and these recent distraction thefts highlight the need for private sellers to put their security first and only leave the vehicle if the keys are in their possession. Our advice is to never leave the purchaser alone in the vehicle. Bringing along a friend or relative will also help to deter a prospective thief, as the vehicle is always be occupied,” continued DCI Hooper.

Most motor policies exclude theft by deception, and a car being driven off by a thief during a test drive could be classified within this. Requesting a copy of the prospective purchasers’ insurance and driver’s license is advocated, as the purchaser must be legally entitled to test drive the vehicle. Third party insurance cover will ensure that the seller is covered in the event of an accident when driven by the prospective purchaser.

The forthcoming Car Crime Awareness Week from 17 – 23 May 2010, organised by AVCIS, aims to draw attention to the need for vigilance by motorists to avoid becoming the victim of crime and drive down crime rates. Distraction theft is just one of many areas which will be highlighted during this new annual initiative.


It is recognised that ‘traditional’ vehicle crime, such as theft of or from vehicles is no longer regarded as a policing priority by most forces. Therefore, under the guidance of the Association of Police Officers (ACPO) portfolio lead for Vehicle Crime matters, the ACPO Vehicle Crime Intelligence Service (AVCIS) was launched on 15th December 2006 and is based in Ryton-on-Dunsmore, Warwickshire within the NIPA (National Policing Improvements Agency) site.

The unit was initially funded by the Home Office, through the ACPO Acquisitive Crime Board and answers to Deputy Chief Constable David Ainsworth, of Wiltshire.

AVCIS does not exist in isolation, but operates within a complex and dynamic environment where national priorities are changing and high-level strategies require constant interpretation and reinterpretation. AVCIS works with partner agencies and all stakeholders within the trade and associated businesses to provide the most effective response. AVCIS speaks for the UK policing in respect of vehicle enabled crime matters.

AVCIS incorporates a number of specialist functions including TruckPol, the national freight crime intelligence service, and the Vehicle Fraud Unit who investigate organised finance fraud.

AVCIS offers the UK Police Service:
• A single point of contact for advice in relation to vehicle crime
• A team committed to tackling vehicle enabled crime
• An opportunity to work free from the barriers and constraints of a single police force
• No draw on resources for other operational matters
• A credible voice for the service within the industry
• A new concept with the full backing of the ACPO and therefore definition of all police forces in the UK

AVCIS – The Facts*
• AVCIS have recovered in excess of 1777 vehicles
• The total value of recovered assets exceeds £33.2 million
• AVCIS have made 236 arrests