The stolen car recovery industry is thriving in Rio
with over 50 companies making around $6.6 million a year.
It works like this: the vehicle is stolen and hidden
until the owner gets paid by the insurance company.
"This may not be an ideal number but we would like to have only 40,000 stolen
vehicles this year. It may not be the best, but it is a considerable reduction for a state
that used to have 51,000 stolen cars a year." This is Rio State’s secretary of Public
Security Josias Quintal’s admission to a poor state of affairs in the wake of a report
that Rio has the worst record of all southeastern states for recovering stolen cars.
According to the CNVR (Cadastro Nacional de Veículos RoubadosNational Registry
of Stolen Vehicles), a private company from São Paulo specializing in recovering stolen
cars, Rio’s police find only 37 percent of the cars stolen in the state. Quintal rejects
the numbers saying that his police are finding 47 percent of the vehicles, even though he
agrees that there is still room for improvement.
With 2.2 million vehicles, Rio is second only to São Paulo, which comes in first with
almost 9 million vehicles. São Paulo is recovering 46 percent of its stolen cars,
exceeding the state of Minas Geraisthe third largest fleet, with 2 million
autoswith a 39 percent recovery rate. Espírito Santo, by comparison, is recovering
77 percent of the vehicles stolen in that state, according to CNVR.
Rio’s numbers don’t look good even when the whole country is considered. Nationally the
state ranks as the sixth worst place in the nation for recovering a stolen car. The tiny
state of Tocantins is first on the list with a mere 16 percent recovery rate,
followed by Rondônia (24 percent), Acre (29 percent), Alagoas (35 percent) and Roraima
(36 percent). But while all these states combined had 766 vehicles stolen in 1999, Rio
alone had 48,000.
For Quintal, insurance companies should take part of the blame for the high incidence
of stolen cars. He criticizes insurance companies for the practice of offering policemen a
reward equivalent to 18 percent of the car’s value for each recovered vehicle. A popular
car like the Volkswagen Gol 1000, for example, is worth around $1600 when found.
Press reports have already detailed links between the police and these recovery
companies. According to a special investigative report by Rio’s daily O Globo, the
stolen car recovery industry is thriving in Rio with over 50 companies making around $6.6
million a year. It works like this: the vehicle is stolen and hidden until the owner gets
paid by the insurance company. As a chief of police told Rio’s daily O Dia:
"There’s a policeman who finds four cars every month. This is very strange."
It’s believed that a criminal alliance between policemen and agents from Detran
(Departamento de TrânsitoTraffic Department) is the main cause for an explosion in
car thefts in Rio. According to recent reports, they are responsible for more than half of
the 48,000 stolen cars in the state. Apparently, except for going out and stealing the
cars themselves, the public servants do it all including "cloning" license
plates. Cloning is the practice by which cars receive the license plate number of another
vehicle. There are stories of car owners who find another vehicle with the same plate as