Police team approaches insurers with new ideas on reducing motor fraud and theft

Kent police are talking to Churchill Insurance about a new project to stamp out car crime.

Kent police crime reduction manager Graham Hatfield said he was keen to share information gathered by the police operation with other insurers.

"We'd like to break into the insurance forum and let them know this is what we're working on and ask how we can work with them," he said.

Next month Hatfield will also present the project, Operation Igneous, to 10 police forces considered by the Home Office to be failing to meet their vehicle crime reduction targets.

Operation Igneous was set up in North Kent in July 2000 using £500,000 funding from the Home Office in a bid to reduce the area's high vehicle crime levels.

PC Kevin Smith said: "We have more motorways than anywhere else in Kent, we border the Met [Metropolitan police] and Essex so there's cross-over activity.

"We have major ports, where cars are exported through, and there's the element of a significant transient population. Motor crime makes up 30% of all North Kent crime."

The Igneous team, lead by project manager Russ Shopland, developed new ideas for fighting car crime, including creating a spreadsheet of theft hotspots and writing letters to owners of cars popular with thieves, warning them to increase their security.

Car crime had been climbing by 10% each year in North Kent, but the team has returned it to 1998 levels, a reduction of 14%.

They estimate they have stopped at least £500,000 worth of insurance claims going ahead, by uncovering vehicle frauds.

DC Mark Braham said the team discovered that at least 15% of vehicles were not stolen in themanner in which the owner reported the crime to the policeand insurers.

The team also found drivers carelessly left valuable items, such as laptops, in full view in their vehicles, and then claimed from their insurers when they were stolen.

Now the Igneous team's ideas are being piloted in Canterbury and Swale before being rolled out across Kent's other areas.

Hatfield would like to hear from other insurers interested in learning more about the project.