Matt Prior

The inside (thin blue) line on crooks’ cars

Autocar - - THIS WEEK -

Th­ese cars are com­fort­able and carry plenty of bod­ies, cash and weapons

All hail the re­turn of the gang­ster car. Or, more per­ti­nently, the re­turn of a Dover coun­cil­lor’s ac­cu­sa­tion that the Mayor of Dover, Neil Rix, would like to tool around his do­main in “a big gang­ster car” (this col­umn, 23 Au­gust).

Rix, if you re­call, would like his Toy­ota Prius re­placed by some­thing larger and, ideally, grander: a Volvo S90, a Skoda Su­perb or a Mit­subishi Out­lander PHEV. This isn’t the kind of vice that makes you a gang­ster in my book, but what do I know?

Any­way, none of those cars sounded very gang­stery to me. And nei­ther, dear reader, do they to you. You may or may not be gang­sters your­selves, but you have writ­ten in your droves. Well, dozens. Okay, tens. Well, look, a few of you emailed.

And you sug­gest, among other things, that all gang­sters are on­line th­ese days any­way. You sent a pho­to­graph, that I can never now un­see, of lo­cal grandees pos­ing next to a Re­liant Robin wear­ing Roll­sroyce badges (see Your Views, p66). You pro­pose that a new Vaux­hall In­signia Grand Sport might be more ap­pro­pri­ate for to­day’s street­go­ing crim­i­nal, what with it be­ing a much larger ve­hi­cle than a Prius but avail­able for very com­pet­i­tive lease hire rates. Most sin­is­terly, you note that scoot­ers are the prime choice of many in­ner city rene­gades.

But none of th­ese in­ter­ests me as much as a note from xx x x xxx <name redacted> of the x xx <city redacted> Po­lice Ser­vice. He’s no gang­ster, you un­der­stand, but he has come across, he says with some un­der­state­ment, “one or two”.

“The cars of choice,” he says, “tend to be the very fast Audi or VW brigade. Rs-any­thing, Golf R, etc.”

And, silly me – and silly coun­cil­lor – for be­ing con­cerned about f lex­i­ble fi­nanc­ing and PCP deals, be­cause “they tend to pre­fer the stolen va­ri­ety where pos­si­ble”. Of course they do.

The rea­sons for th­ese car choices are the same rea­sons you’d want one in civil­ian life. They are “comfy and carry plenty of bod­ies, cash, weapons”. Okay. Not quite the same rea­sons you’d want one in lawabid­ing life, but you get the idea.

Trou­ble is, as my man in the know goes on to ex­plain, “they are pretty much un­catch­able. Our traf­fic cars – BMW 530d, 330d and X5 – are no match, let alone our mighty Peu­geot 308 diesel re­sponse cars”.

There is a se­ri­ous edge to this. Last year 28 peo­ple were killed dur­ing po­lice pur­suits. Although mostly they were those who put them­selves into a chase, there is the fear that pur­suits are last­ing for longer, be­cause traf­fic po­lice num­bers in Eng­land and Wales have halved since 2000.

It is sen­si­ble that High­ways Agency staff do the hum­drum work fol­low­ing break­downs and mi­nor nerfs on mo­tor­ways, but it has seem­ingly left traf­fic of­fi­cers each cov­er­ing a wider area. Which, the Po­lice Fed­er­a­tion be­lieves, makes of­fend­ers think it’s worth mak­ing a dash for it, be­cause they’re more likely to get away.

So what do you do? Ac­cept that chas­ing of­fend­ers is too risky and for­ever back off? I sus­pect that will only fur­ther en­cour­age those who think it’s worth run­ning, although surely there will al­ways be criminals who sim­ply must be caught now. Seems to me we need to have both suf­fi­cient num­bers of of­fi­cers trained to catch peo­ple and the ve­hi­cles with which to catch them.

RS3 Sport­back rates highly with Au­to­car and gang­sters alike

“Catch me if you can. Oh, I see you can’t”

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