South Africa’s chop shops go upmarket


After tracking a stolen vehicle to the back of the house, the Tracker crew and police officers noticed a car parked inside what appeared to be a living room.

The fake living room is part of the front of the house, but the windows – complete with curtains – are in a wall built on a hinge mechanism that swings open like a barn door, allowing vehicles to be driven inside.

The Toyota RunX parked inside the fake room was subsequently linked to a recent hijacking case in Germiston.

South Africa's chop shops are obviously moving upwards on the property ladder …

In October last year, Tracker and Western Cape police discovered what may well have been South Africa's first vehicle chop shop disguised as a house.

After tracking a hijacked vehicle to Khayalitsha, Tracker's recovery crew and police officers realised the signal was coming from inside a nearby house.

The house had a door and windows facing the road and an overgrown garden. The front of the house was made up of large removable zinc panels, and the poles supporting a dilapidated fence could be pulled out of the ground to allow vehicles to be driven right into the house, which was an empty shell. Once the zinc panels were put back into place, the house looked no different to many others in the area.

Over the years, Tracker has recovered stolen vehicles from a number of interesting places, such as inside a moving truck (the first mobile chop shop?), alongside large power stations, wrapped in tinfoil, underground (in a crudely dug hole), and even underwater.

To date, 533,733 vehicles in South Africa are equipped with Tracker devices. In collaboration with the SA Police Service, Tracker has recovered 38,011 stolen vehicles, assisted in 7,137 arrests, and helped to bust 299 vehicle theft syndicates and chop shops.

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