Cross Border CrimeNewsOrganised Crime

Operation Mobile 5 – Race against time

Amid the Covid-19 pandemic, criminal gangs involved in car theft around Europe have focused on stripping stolen cars into parts to make it easier to move them across borders. And, amid growing interest among travellers seeking to avoid flying, campers have become a favourite target for car thieves. These are among the main findings of an operation led by Frontex targeting organised criminal groups.

The 12-day operation that took place this month involved law enforcement officers from 23 countries carried out intensified checks in several locations along the EU’s external borders. It led to the seizure of 522 stolen cars and various car parts and boat engines, as well as the discovery of four so-called chophouses where stolen cars were quickly stripped into parts that can then be smuggled across the borders.

“We are seeing some new developments when it comes to car theft. Due to border closures, criminal networks started to move car parts rather than entire vehicles across borders. We also see more and more stolen rental and leased cars, as well as campers. The demand on the market for such vehicles is clearly growing.

“When it comes to stolen cars, it’s a race against time. A car stolen in front of someone’s house at 8 pm can end up dismantled into parts only four hours later – then it will much more difficult to track down,” said Marcin Skowronek, a Frontex expert coordinating the operation.

The operation, known as Joint Action Day (JAD) Mobile 5, targeted serious and organised cross-border crime across Europe. It mostly focused on the detection of stolen cars and car parts, but as these crimes often go hand in hand with other criminal activities, it also targeted people smuggling and related document fraud.

Frontex also noted an increase in the number of stolen boat engines due to a shortage of boats on the market – many are used to transport irregular migrants, for example across the Channel.

This year, Frontex also used mobile teams in Croatia with technical equipment on board for the detection of stolen vehicles.

In addition, during the operation Greek authorities identified a criminal network responsible for theft of vehicles which were later used for smuggling of migrants – during the operation, they arrested nine suspected smugglers, seized 27 cars seized and identified 18 members of the criminal organisation.

Together against organised crime

The operations toon place under the umbrella of EMPACT, the European Multidisciplinary Platform Against Criminal Threats. It tackles the most important threats posed by organised and serious international crime affecting the EU. EMPACT strengthens intelligence, strategic and operational cooperation between national authorities, EU institutions and bodies, and international partners.