- By Stephanie Miskin
- BBC News, West Midlands
A driver has had his car stripped for parts twice in two months as criminals continue to attack vehicles across Birmingham.
Lettisha Brown’s Ford Fiesta was „cannibalised” after stopping in Digbeth on her way to work.
The BBC revealed in February that crime shows no sign of abating, with more victims coming forward.
Both organized gangs and opportunistic thieves are believed to be behind the thefts, West Midlands Police said.
Car bumpers, grills, lights and bonnets are removed from cars in minutes.
Motorists across the city have reported that many thefts are taking place in broad daylight.
’I’m angry – it feels personal’
Letitia, 28, said she had just returned to work after her car was targeted twice while working for a mental health charity.
„I’m upset and angry that someone has done this and it feels personal – I don’t feel it at the moment because it’s going to happen again in two months. It’s just horrible.
„I took to social media and shared my experience and many people came forward saying they were affected.”
After the first theft on March 15, he found a bumper via Facebook Marketplace that was stolen again weeks later on May 10.
He said thieves are now suspected of selling parts online quickly and cheaply.
„It’s ironic because the person I bought the bumper from probably stole them.”
West Midlands Police said it was reviewing all inquiries, including online advertisements, and urged people to „think twice” before buying and creating a „self-sustaining market for thieves”.
A simple search online pulls up bumpers of various makes and models of cars selling for hundreds of pounds, usually paid in cash.
After the theft, Letisha sold her car and exchanged it for a different make and model.
„Now that I’ve got a car I don’t want to live my life in fear, I don’t want to drive it anywhere,” he said.
„The car I’ve got now won’t run on the roads of Digbeth.”
’I was punished, it wasn’t my fault’
Jason Galley had owned his Vauxhall Corsa for just 17 days when he returned from a football match and the front end was completely missing.
The car, which was parked near Dartmouth Circus, near the Aston Expressway, was targeted on Saturday afternoon, it was written. The 35-year-old has incurred huge expenses.
Jason was not reimbursed by his insurance company for the full value of the car, a loss of £1.3k.
After buying a second car on finance, a Ford Focus, he was told it would cost up to £4,000 to fully insure it following a theft.
It sat in her driveway until she decided to use her savings and credit card to pay for third party, fire and theft insurance at a still steep cost of £2,300.
„I feel like I’m being punished for my mistake,” he said.
„I’ve lost a lot of money and it’s been really hard.”
The police did nothing for days
The bumper of Steven John’s Ford Fiesta was ripped off outside his home in Solihull at around 3:00am while he was sleeping over the spring bank holiday in May.
„I first went to West Midlands Police at 07:00 to report the car and what had happened and they said someone would come out to investigate. I asked for a crime number and they said they would give me one. Once they came out to investigate the problem.
“Here I am, no crime number, no contact from the police and I can’t get through to inform my insurer.
„I have a car that I can’t drive and I can’t go to work.”
Officers made contact with Steven, 28, after the BBC contacted West Midlands Police about the theft a week later.
He said he felt he had no choice but to sell his car and replace it with something less attractive to thieves.
„I could repair it and spend thousands of pounds repairing it and they could come out the next day and do it all over again and West Midlands Police would do nothing,” he said.
The BBC spoke to several drivers who have been targeted in recent months.
Manuela said her hybrid car was targeted twice outside her flat in Solihull. Repairs cost £4,750 after it was removed on New Year’s Eve, before thieves struck again four months later. He said he „feels exposed” with spiraling expenses and his car in storage.
Holly’s neighbors in Erdington intervened when they said the thieves were „trying to fix their aunt’s car”. Disbelieving, neighbors went to check on her and chased the men who were in the middle of removing the parts.
Charlotte said she was on a night out with friends in Digbeth in late April when she returned to her car and found her phone missing. The thieves were interrupted by security guards at a nearby club.
Det Ch Insp Andy McHugh, West Midlands Police’s head of motoring crime, described car cannibals as „a shocking crime” which was particularly felt across Birmingham – but why?
„Birmingham attracts a lot of visitors to the city – people who work here and visit all day, it’s a magnet.
„Because of that, it’s always rife for car crime and other outlying parts of the West Midlands.”
The force set up a dedicated special vehicle crime unit in September 2022.
Between September 2022 and March 2023, 19,830 'thefts from a motor vehicle’ were reported to West Midlands Police – including the removal of cars whose registration plates had been stolen.
It is still early days for the unit which has detected 339 crimes and solved 157 crimes during that period.
Police said they have recently changed their strategy in hopes of making a bigger impact in dealing with vehicular crime.
„It feels less in terms of a comparison, which is why we’ve focused our operational change model on local policing and neighborhood crime,” Det Ch Insp McHugh said.
„From initial contact with victims to follow-up investigations, to forensic advancement, to piecing that intelligence together to get some real positive results, there are designated tracks across the force that review opportunities around vehicle crime.”
„Całkowity introwertyk. Nieprzejednany specjalista od sieci. Przyjazny fanatyk bekonu. Student ekstremalnych. Miłośnik piwa. Organizator.”